Part two of the weekend’s theme of visiting places I pass on the way to and from work – on the way home this evening I stopped at the memorial to the crew of the Sunderland flying boat that crashed at Blackrock, on the road between Bridgend and Bruichladdich, in January 1943.


Sunderlands were stationed at Bowmore during WWII as part of Coastal Command, flying from Loch Indaal. On the evening of Sunday 24th January 1943, a MKIII Sunderland, DV979, was returning from a long patrol over the Atlantic. The weather conditions were poor and the aircraft was getting low on fuel.

As was the custom, three ‘flarepath boats’ had gone out into Loch Indaal to meet the returning aircraft, and illuminate the landing area. Unfortunately, in the poor conditions, the pilot misjudged the landing and clipped the top of the hill behind Blackrock on the approach to Loch Indaal. The aircraft came to rest on the raised beach area just short of the loch, where the memorial is today – you can see from the photo above just how close it was to making it onto the water.

Eleven of the twelve crew managed to escape from the aircraft – three headed towards the beach, while the other eight went in the other direction towards the road. This group of eight then realised that the tail gunner was still trapped inside the aircraft, and returned to free him.

Tragically, at this point, the depth charges still on board the aircraft blew up, killing the tail gunner and his eight rescuers.

The explosion was heard twenty miles away; the windows blew in at Mid Carrabus farm, a mile away, and until the road was resurfaced in the 1970s, pieces of metal from the aircraft could be seen embedded in its surface. The girlfriends of the pilot and co-pilot, waiting for their return in Bowmore, heard the explosion and feared the worst.

The heroism of the whole crew – and especially of those eight who lost their lives returning to rescue their comrade – is remembered by the memorial erected by the Museum of Islay Life. The graves of the Canadian and Australian members of the crew who lost their lives are in Kilarrow churchyard in Bowmore.

More details and eye witness accounts can be read at and – many thanks to these sites for the information.

2 thoughts on “Sunderland

  1. Have just found youf blog anc have loved resding it and seeing photos! As a regular visitor I’ve been transported!!! So far I’ve visited all the places. Like you I love taking photos of the rocks expecially at Saligo. Back on Islay soon. Friend to many particularly Mary Mcgreggor. Just mention Mags from Manchester! Carry on the good work. Don’t think there’s any need to say ENJOY!!!!!


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