Site of RAF plane crash, Penmaenbach

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Copyright photo of Penmaenbach plane wreckage 1937In 1937 a Royal Air Force plane crashed into the sea close to Penmaenbach headland. All three members of its crew died.

The photograph by Harry Rogers Jones (shown here by kind permission of David Rogers Jones) shows parts of the plane surrounded by curious members of the public while a lone policeman keeps guard. The western portal of the road tunnel in the background provides a guide to the position of the wreckage.

The Avro Anson MkI plane, piloted by Sergeant William Henry Victor (“Bill”) Rimer of Bristol, was flying in formation with 13 similar planes on the morning of 17 September 1937. They were returning to their base, RAF Bircham Newton, in Norfolk. They had earlier taken off from Penrhos Aerodrome, near Pwllheli, where they had been practising on the bombing and gunner ranges.

As the planes passed Penmaenmawr in thick mist, Sgt Rimer, aged 24, realised that he was flying too low to clear the headland at Penmaenbach. He took evasive action, but this caused his aircraft to nose-dive into the shallow sea.

The other two crew members who died were Aircraftsman Michael Kirwin (or possibly Kerwen or Kirwan), aged 23, of Liverpool and Aircraftsman Kenneth Mark Butcher, aged 20, of Norfolk.

Joseph Speakman, a platelayer working on the nearby railway line, described at the airmen’s inquest how the plane “suddenly appeared out of the mist” and said that “the plane suddenly turned towards the sea and then nosedived into the water”.

With thanks to Adrian Hughes, of the Home Front museum, Llandudno, and to David Jacklin, of the RAF Heritage Centre Bircham Newton

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