Sunken wreckage identified as crashed wartime flying boat

THE wreckage of an aircraft found in the sea off Oban two months ago was yesterday identified as the remains of a Catalina flying boat which crashed during a training flight in the Second World War.

The wreckage was discovered in over 100ft of water in the Firth of Lorne by Royal Navy divers from HMS Pembroke, part of the 3rd Mine Counter-measures Squadron, during a coastal mapping operation in the area.

The discovery of the aircraft wreckage sparked speculation that the divers had come across the remains of a Cessna 150 which disappeared on a flight from Glenforsa on Mull on Christmas Eve, 1975. The body of the Cessna’s pilot, retired Squadron Leader Peter Gibbs, was found on Mull four months after he vanished.

But military aviation experts from RAF Kinloss, who have been studying photographs of the wreckage, yesterday confirmed that the aircraft was a twin-engined Catalina flying boat which crashed during a training flight on 12 April, 1945.

Michael Mulford, the RAF’s press officer in Scotland, said the Kinloss experts had also traced the history of the plane.

He explained: "The Catalina, with a nine-man South African Air Force crew, was taking off in the Firth of Lorne on a training flight when it crashed, caught fire and sank. All nine crew scrambled to safety and escaped with minor injuries.

"The SAAF crew were training at RAF Oban, an important flying-boat station throughout the Second World War. They were due to have ferried the aircraft back to South Africa."

Mr Mulford added: "We are extremely grateful to the volunteers who run the War and Peace Museum in Oban for help in our inquiries, as well as to the Air Accident Investigation Branch who confirmed our findings."