Sandwood Bay Spitfire

Sandwood Bay, Sutherland, Scotland and what we found on the beach in May 2008.

Lights out!

Image of the view accross Sandwood Bay at sunset. Beach and sea stack visible in the distance; sun visible low on the horizon.

Sandwood Bay is in the far North-West of Scotland, about 5 miles south of the most North-Westerly point in Great Britain at Cape Wrath.  There is no road access but is an easy 4 mile walk from a small car park in the crofting hamlet of Blairmore.

Image of Sandwood Bay with a person walking across undisturbed wet sand towards a shingle patch near the breakwater. Blue sky and sunshine.

I went there after a hillwalking trip in the Cairngorms to take some scenic shots of the remote, 1.6 Km long beach and Am Buachaille (the Shepherd, a sea stack at the southern end of the beach). In the picture above you may be able to see (ok, I can barely see it myself and I know where it is) something sticking up out of the sand in a patch of shingle just this side of the breakwater.

Image of a propellor sticking up from sand amongst water worn rocks. The propellor is shiny alluminium with a rusty steel base.

The "thing" turned out to be a propeller. Not just any propeller; a Spitfire propeller from a Mk 1 Supermarine Spitfire R7154.  Obviously, I didn’t know this at the time; whilst there are people who can identify an upturned Merlin crank case at 100m, I am not one of them. Correction, a Merlin Mk3 crankcase...

Image of a propellor sticking up from sand amongst water worn rocks. In front is the remains of the engine casing as corroded alluminium / steel

Some research on the internet on my return home revealed that Sgt Michael Kilburn was on patrol over Scapa Flow on 30th September 1941 when his Spitfire's engine failed resulting in him landing it on the beach, which must have been quite a feat and luckily for him that the tide was out.  The incident was witnessed by a local shepherd who took the pilot (unhurt) to his cottage to await recovery.  The aircraft was not recovered other than for removal of the ordnance. I am sure that I also read somewhere that the pilot insisted that his seat was recovered but I cannot find any reference to that now and I may be confusing it with another incident.

Image of a propellor sticking up from sand amongst rocks and water. Camera looks down on the top of the propellor. Crank case is visible.

The aircraft was a "presentation" aircraft and was paid for by the people of Accrington, Church and Oswaldtwistle it first flew on 26th February 1941 and passed to 124 Squadron on 7th May 1941 via 12 Maintenance Unit. It cost £6000 which was raised by donation from the people of those towns. Sgt Kilburn survived the war and went on to become a test pilot in early jets. There are some later sightings of the remains from 2015 here.

 

The find was all the more remarkable because my wife's family are from Church and her parents and grandparents may well have contributed to the original purchase.

For a wider look around the Bay, please see my other page on Sandwood Bay.

Sandwood Bay, Sutherland, Scotland and what we found on the beach in May 2008.

Sandwood Bay Spitfire

Image of the view accross Sandwood Bay at sunset. Beach and sea stack visible in the distance; sun visible low on the horizon.
Image of Sandwood Bay with a person walking across undisturbed wet sand towards a shingle patch near the breakwater. Blue sky and sunshine.
Image of a propellor sticking up from sand amongst water worn rocks. The propellor is shiny alluminium with a rusty steel base.
Image of a propellor sticking up from sand amongst water worn rocks. In front is the remains of the engine casing as corroded alluminium / steel
Image of a propellor sticking up from sand amongst rocks and water. Camera looks down on the top of the propellor. Crank case is visible.