Cromarty Archive

'Plane crash at Allerton Farm - 1944

'Plane crash at Allerton Farm - 1944

Date Added: 30 July 2003 Contributor: Evan McBean Year: 1944 Picture No: 438

At 2am on July 28th, 1944, this Sunderland crashed after hitting some high tension wires whilst on a practice circuit in very poor visibility. Having lost part of its port wing, it hit the ground and skidded for about a quarter of a mile before hitting Allerton farmhouse. All the crew escaped without serious injury, but the fuel from the 'plane caught fire immediately - two of the occupants of the house were severely burnt, and a young lad, Hugh Watson, 15, died.

The picture shows the farm steading, much as it is now, although the lean-to at the bottom left-hand part has now gone. The small cottage beside the steading has been extended since this was taken, but the farmhouse has never been rebuilt. Note the circular haystack near the end of the wing.

Albums: Aerial Views

Groups: Fearn Airfield


I heard of this but always thought it was a tall story - after seeing the picture i won't dismiss these old stories quite so easily. Comment left on 11 September 2003 by John Whyte
My grandparents lived on Allerton as did my mother and uncle at the time of the crash. My godmother Greta Watson lived in the house and her son Hugh was killed. I can remember playing in the ruins as a child. My grandparents were William Beattie, and Annie Beattie, my mother was Alice Beattie and William was her brother. Comment left on 06 December 2003 by Anne Kidd (nee Wade)
I was born on Allerton in the current farmhouse If you remember my mother or grandparents please contact me. Comment left on 23 May 2004 at 19:51 by Anne Kidd(nee Wade)
As an air historian I was very interested in this picture as I have followed this incident in great detail. I am not particularly computer literate, so have hesitated in having a go at filling in this form.

Would be very interested in any more pictures that might be available - also have direct interest in the Oxford from Dalcross that crashed in same vicinity - have crash report. Hope you get this.
Comment left on 28 May 2005 at 10:38 by John Fleming
To John Fleming:
As far as I can recall, the first person to attend the Oxford crash you mention, which would be sometime in the early 1950's, was a Mr Jonathan Middleton, farmer, Davidston Farm, Cromarty, in whose rough grazing land to the SE of his house, that aircraft crashed. I'm sure if you wrote him direct, he'd be able to come up with some more detail.
Comment left on 29 May 2005 at 21:18 by Clem Watson
To Clem Watson:
Thanks for comments. I spoke to J. Middleton and Mrs. B. Gordon about a year ago. At the time of the Oxford accident (19 June 1953) I was working in Air Traffic control at Fearn and Dalcross. The pilot George Nicholson, age 22 was flying solo on an authorised Practice Forced Landing exercise. He was buried at the village of Horsley Woodhouse in Derbyshire.

Incidentally this is not to be confused with the other Oxford from Dalcross, crashed 2/12/52 - Instructor and pupil killed - crashed into trees near Blackstand. Would like to know exactly where. I understand the following were first on the scene - Donald Williamson Killen, Forestry worker, Neil McKinnon Blackstand, William Pringle Poyntzfield. Are any of them still alive?
Comment left on 01 June 2005 at 19:33 by John Fleming
To John Fleming: Glad you made contact with J. Middleton re accident 19/06/53. Will try some local research re the 1952 accident, with ex Forestry personnel. I imagine they would be in their 70's or 80's now. (Passing interest, I was Air Traffic, RAF Leuchars & Kinloss, 1959/1962.) I used to cross Nigg ferry, and cycle to Fearn, to watch the Oxfords, doing 'touch & go', practice diversions, etc. '52 & '53. Comment left on 02 June 2005 at 10:44 by Clem Watson
Hello again Clem. Believe it or not, on pay day at Fearn the money was actually brought in a cloth bag from Dalcross and it was dished out in the tower! Happy days - I met my wife here.
P.S. I know Keith
Comment left on 06 June 2005 at 19:25 by John Fleming, Inver
I am a military historian and am trying locate, identify and photographically record 20th Century Military Structures.

I am currently trying to trace the precise site of RAF Black Isle. From information that I have so far tracked down it was just off the B9160 at NH715605. This source also states that the land is a Forestry Commission nursey and a number of the old RAF building survive.

Can anyone provide any further information. At present I have only viewed the site through the Local Live satellite mapping service and cannot identify any airfield looking site or what I would expect of a nursery site.

Do any of the RAF buildings survive and if so what are their condition and where are they located.
Comment left on 31 August 2006 at 14:05 by Jeremy Flack
Jeremy, look at !:25000 os explorer map 432 black isle, fortrose, Cromarty & Dingwall
map ref :- 717 601 blackstand, west of spot height 169. Some sheds still exist. There is also
a book written (spiral bound) by a Jim Hughes, a local (Elgin) aviation historian. I can photo what still exists next time I go to Cromarty. Any help?
Comment left on 31 August 2006 at 22:20 by Clem Watson
You want "A Steep Turn to the Stars" by Jim Hughes.......A history of aviation in the Moray Firth.
Not a trace of the runways today--They were grass, encouraged to grow strong roots by a lot of phosphate in the form of basic slag, and covered by very strong welded steel mesh spiked on to the soil. Some of the mesh was cut into strips and is still on fences in the Black Isle. The hanger is now a cattlle shed. Some of the RAF personel decorated the inside of the buildings with murals that have been described as erotic and exotic. It became a very important base for the Forestry Commission after war time when all the Black Isle nurseries provided plants to Scotland and the North of England.
Comment left on 01 September 2006 at 00:04 by Alasdair Cameron
Jeremy, The site you are referring to is Blackstand SLG. It was presumably well camouflaged anyway, which is perhaps why you can't pick up any identifiable features on Local Live, although the site is visible and you have the grid reference about right. The forestry nursery is visible as a separate small rectangular plantation just to the NE of the B9160 and SE of the main forestry area, and the buildings are just to the NE of this, at NH716611. I'll go over later and take some photos. Comment left on 01 September 2006 at 15:34 by Estelle Quick
Sorry I have not added to your site for a while. I expect to be giving a talk to over 60's in Cromarty on Thursday 16 at 2 p.m. If you have been involved in this correspondence at any time and you are there, will you please make yourself known. John Fleming, Inver Comment left on 11 November 2006 at 14:26 by John Fleming
There was in fact an Oxford from Dalcross which crashed in the Cairngorms in late 1951(It was in December I am pretty sure). This was piloted by Pilot Officer Drury, a National Service trainee pilot like myself. We were both on night navigation solo flights from and to Dalcross via turning points at Aberdeen, Cape Wrath and Stornaway.
We were caught up in the final stages in heavy snow and icing, and were guided back to Dalcross on Standard Beam Approach. I got back OK with very little cockpit visibilty (In fact I landed with the side window open as the front screen was covered in ice).
Pete Drury was not as lucky and was found in January or February when the snow had melted. He had, I understand, stooged around blind until he ran out of fuel. He was still strapped in when found and no fire had apparently occured (which leads me to believe he was out of fuel).
My old Log Book suggests that this would have been on December 4th 1951 and I was flying Oxford 694 at the time.
We also lost a pilot and aircraft from Dalcross in early 1952 when one flipped over during a low flying exercise ( I cannot recall the pilot's name but I have a photo of him taken at our "Wings" celebration party)
Also in the photo is Ted Clowes, who went on to become a very successful pilot, and who was killed in 1984 while flying a Hunter for FRADU. He crashed in the Solent in October 1984 and the cause was never established.
Regards Terry Clary
Comment left on 19 January 2008 at 21:31 by Terry Clary
Hi Terry,
I am working on a project to identify all locations that have had a military connection across the UK during the 20th Century.

Do you have any more precise information for any of these incidents as I am also including crash sites? Date, Serial number, unit, location and casualty name(s) would be useful.

I have a temporary website at which gives some information about the project.


Comment left on 23 January 2008 at 01:47 by Jeremy Flack
Hello Jeremy,
I cannot offer much more information on the accidents other than that given in my comments to which you have replied.
I have however been in touch with John Fleming (who also comments on the Cromarty Archives site) and sent him by email attachment a photo of No 8 AFTS “Wings” party, with the names of those I remember (57 years ago) and an excerpt from my log book showing the date Pete Drury and I took off from Dalcross on solo night navigation trips (from which Pete never returned).This was on December 4th 1951 and I was flying Oxford 694.
I also attached a scan of my Flying Badge notification.
I will happily send you this information if you could let me have your email address.
John Fleming has advised me that Pete Drury in buried at Rotherham in Yorkshire and I will try to locate and visit his grave to pay my much delayed respects to an old RAF colleague.
If you google in Ted Clowes the FRADU site containing the report of his death in 1984 and his photo will come up.
My email is [email protected]

Comment left on 23 January 2008 at 12:24 by Terry Clary
Further to my earlier reply and following information since received from John Fleming I must correct the date of Pete Drury's accident to December 6th 1951. He was flying Oxford V3910 at the time and crashed at Lynemore nr Grantown-on-Spey. This means that at the time of the accident I was flying either 778 or 745, having been up in both that night, as well as V3910 earlier that day.
Sorry for the confusion but it was a long time ago.
Comment left on 23 January 2008 at 23:06 by Terry Clary
You may remember we had a flurry of comments about the Sunderland crash at Allerton Farm in 1944 when young Hugh Watson died, age 15 yrs. You might expect that by now the subject would be pretty well exhausted, but I have come across a rather odd fact and it is this; the C.W.G. lists include civilian casualties, (e.g. air raids etc) but his name is not included. It would be nice if it could be. Relatives etc.interested? Also, does anyone know where he is buried? Cromarty? Comment left on 15 February 2008 at 19:27 by John Fleming
I have just spoken to my uncle, who was Hugh Watson's friend, and who lived on Allerton farm at the time of the crash, and he said that Hugh would have been buried in Cromarty, and I think that his mother Greta, might be buried there too - she was my godmother and as far as I believe was brought back to Cromarty after she died to be buried. (She went Cananda to live) Comment left on 18 February 2008 at 13:45 by Alice a Kidd (nee Wade )
I was on No34 Course which graduated 1.9.53 along with Bobby Shields, Arfon Evans, Pete Bancroft, John Tattersall, Brian Walpole (Concord Pilot) and many others. I ended up as OC 663 Glider Squadron, RAF Kinloss, flying Vigilant motor gliders with the Air Cadets until old age signalled time to hang up the goggles Biggles! I still keep in touch with John Fleming, Arfon Evans. F/O William Wilson was an instructor on Oxfords who was killed along with his pupil on 2.12.52 on the Black Isle. He is buried in Springbank Cemetery where I lay a Poppy every Remembrance Sunday. Comment left on 02 April 2008 at 18:00 by Sandy Reid
Hugh Watson was of a similar age to my father and was with him and in the army cadets. My father and other cadets formed a guard of honour at his funeral which was at either Fortrose or Rosemarkie. To add further to the confusion my father knew him as “Ali” which presumably is an abbreviation of Alistair? Comment left on 12 April 2008 at 20:16 by Andrew Bathie
Hi Andrew, I think your family might have known my uncle... William Beattie (Bill). My grandfather was William also. Comment left on 15 April 2008 at 13:35 by Alice Kidd
Hi Alice, yes he did know your uncle but thinks his brother Bill would have known him better as closer in age. Dad left Cromarty in 1946. Comment left on 15 April 2008 at 18:42 by Andrew Bathie
Thank you for your answer Andrew. I will pass this info on to my uncle when I see him next. Comment left on 05 May 2008 at 21:31 by Alice Kidd
Can Anyone help? I have been trying to trace people who went to Peddiston School with my uncle William Beattie. Comment left on 09 June 2008 at 21:14 by Alice Kidd
does anyone remember Peddiston school? Comment left on 06 July 2008 at 21:44 by Alice Kidd
Does anyone have further info on Ted Clowes? (an uncle) From Harvey Johnson, Hampshire. Comment left on 19 August 2008 at 16:40 by Harvey Johnson
Donald Williamson is still alive and well.He now lives in Forres. Address not known. Comment left on 02 October 2008 at 19:11 by John Jack.
Hello there, I stumbled across this page when looking for something else! I live in Forres and know a Donnie Williamson and where he lives. This maybe a stab in the dark the one I know worked (owned it I think)in a nursery Comment left on 31 December 2010 at 19:03 by Margaret
For anyone still interested Hugh Watson is buried in Rosemarkie ...with his grandparents, found this by accident Comment left on 07 January 2017 at 17:07 by Alice Kidd
My grandfather, William Watson was born on Allerton Farm in 1895. He was in the British army and overseas at the time of the crash. His sister Greta was in the house the night of the accident. Hugh was my father Eric's only cousin on the Watson side of the family. Any further information would be appreciated. Comment left on 30 March 2020 by Dr Todd Watson
Dr Watson Gretta Watson was my God Mother all I really know she went to Canada she did visit us when I was a little girl when she must have been back to Scotland on Holiday .
and I found Hughs Grave in Rosemarkie Cemetery he is buried with his grandparents I think
Comment left on 10 September 2020 by Alice A Kidd
Form Goes Here