Where is Mosquito plane pulled from sea off Lossiemouth?
It’s terrifying to think that out of 125,000 aircrew in Bomber Command during World War II, almost half that number died in action.
So many families enduring so much suffering and it is suffering that lasts for generations.
For Ann Kraunsoe, it’s about the loss of her half-brother, 20-year-old pilot Bill Livock.
He and his 21-year-old Flight Sergeant Godfrey West died when their Mosquito plane crashed into the ocean while training off Covesea.
Training accidents took a heavy toll
Although less talked about, training accidents took a heavy toll in the RAF in those days too.
Ann doesn’t remember her half brother – he was 20 years older.
But she knows his plane was the subject of a salvage search in 2002 and parts of it were pulled out of the water.
Who performed the salvage and where the parts are now remains a mystery, and Ann is hoping for help from P&J readers who may be able to solve it.
The story also has a strong connection to Elgin as Bill’s good friend Archie Pennie, who is originally from Elgin but lives in Canada, heard about the salvage, put two and two together and realized it was his old pal’s plane .
It was the first time he had heard about what had happened to Bill and the news hit him hard.
But what happened on December 21, 1944 that sent Bill and Godfrey to their watery graves?
Ann visited the website aircrewremembered.com and discovered a gold mine of information about her half brother.
William Denzil Livock had flying in his blood.
He was the son of Group Captain Gerald Edward Livock and his wife Francis of Lee-on-Solent in Hampshire.
He and Godfrey were in 248 Squadron based at RAF Banff.
They were on a training exercise flying to RAF Lossiemouth when they lost an engine.
Bill attempted to bring the Mosquito out of a dive, but the plane stalled and rolled over, crashing into the sea a mile north of Covesea Skerries.
Neither body recovered
Neither man was recovered and both are remembered at the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede in Surrey.
Bill completed his training at No 37 Service Flying Training School in Calgary and it was there that he met Archie Pennie.
Archie was born in Banff in 1916 and moved to Elgin with his mother after the death of his tailor father.
He went to school at Elgin Academy and then studied explosives at Glasgow University before finding a job as a chemical engineer at Woolwich Royal Arsenal.
In 1942 he traveled to Canada to learn to fly with the RAF at their war school in Assiniboia, Saskatchewan.
He met Bill while training as an aircrew in Calgary and the two hit it off.
The brave guy
Archie told Vintage Wings of Canada: “He was a daring guy and never stopped delighting us in the crew room with the weird and scary frills he added to our more mundane acrobatics.
“Once he was at an armor drill with an instructor who asked Bill to do a ‘little turn’ – not a phrase you find in the instructor’s handbook.
“Bill interpreted it as a ‘stall turn’ and proceeded to scare the trainer to death.
“Needless to say they never flew together again but Bill saw the funny side and was happy to talk about this particular adventure.”
Dangerous and difficult air raids
Archie also had a good understanding of Bill’s war and how he became a cropper.
He said: “He was a member of 248 Squadron, part of the Banff Strike Force, which found itself in the heat of fighting in the Norwegian fjords, in strikes that presented difficulties and serious danger.
“Casualties were heavy, but it seems an ironic and cruel twist of fate that Bill should have survived all the perils of these perilous missions and ended up a victim of a local aviation accident.”
Archie didn’t know what had become of Bill until nearly six decades later.
During the war he was a flight instructor and trained pilots on Fairchild Cornell aircraft.
He had married a local girl and remained in Canada but retained his ties to his hometown of Banff and Elgin.
Archie put two and two together because of the discovery of the Mosquito plane near Lossiemouth
Through that rumor mill, he heard about the amateur salvage operation in 2002, put two and two together, and realized the pilot in question was his great friend Bill.
He said: “I was touched by the information about the salvage as the Mossie’s pilot had been one of my closest friends during my flight crew training. The news hit me hard and made me feel like it was yesterday, not 58 years ago.”
“Bill attempted to motor land at Lossiemouth and lost control.
“Undoubtedly, at low speed and under the heavy torque of the other engine, he was thrown onto his back and into the sea.
“He was one of several close friends who suffered the same tragic fate in Mossies under similar circumstances.”
Archie’s understanding was that the scavengers of the ill-fated plane had intended to incorporate the propeller into a memorial honoring the crew of the Banff Strike Force, but as far as he and Bill’s half-sister Ann know, that never happened.
Archie died in 2013 at the age of 97.
As an aside, it was Archie along with his pal, future Elgin Academy Headmaster James Bain, who found the wreckage of an Airspeed Oxford, complete with the bodies of its Czech crew, when they were walking together in the Cairngorms in 1945.
Ann, who lives in Dorset, believes Bill took after her father.
She said: “My father learned to fly in World War I on biplanes held together with strings.
“He was a coast commander and Bill followed in his footsteps.
“It would mean a lot to find out what happened to the propeller and all the other parts that were recovered.”
Kelvin Youngs of Aircrew Remembered said thousands were killed in training during the war and although there were many incidents involving Mosquitoes they were one of the finest aircraft of World War II.
“It was an amazing plane, beautiful and very fast.
“It was designed by furniture makers because by that point all the aluminum and steel had been used up and they had to design a wood-framed airplane.”
If anyone can help Ann in her quest to find out more about the wreckage of Bill’s plane please contact us here.
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[Where is Mosquito plane pulled from sea off Lossiemouth?]