23.05.1942 No. 53 O.T.U. Spitfire Ia X4588 Sgt. Carruthers
Operation: Formation training exercise
Date: 23rd May 1942 (Saturday)
Unit: No. 53 O.T.U. (Operational Training Unit)
Type: Spitfire Ia
Serial: X4588 (1)
Base: R.A.F. Llandow, South Wales.
Location: Above Gwaun-Nant DDdu, at about 680m, Brecon Beacons, Wales
Pilot: Sgt. Donald Perry Carruthers R/100418 R.C.A.F. Age 20. Killed (2)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Thought to have crashed through a combination of bad weather and a small error in navigation.
Anyone with any other information and or photographs we would very much like to hear from you.
We were fortunate to hear from Adele Hughes who's grandfather, Mr. John Jones discovered the wreckage containing the body of Sgt. Carruthers nine days after his aircraft was reported missing. The following account is reproduced courtesy of The "Express" Weekender originally published on Thursday, 7th. November 1991.
The Brecon Beacon Spitfires
On Sunday, November 3rd. 1941 a Spitfire number X4913 crashed into the S.E. ridge of Pen-y-Fan killing its pilot F/Sgt. C.C. Gardner. Sunday November 3rd. 1991 was the 50th. anniversary to the day and just like fifty years ago it was wild, wet windy and misty up on the Beacons.
From June, 1941 until May, 1943, during World War Two, RAF Station Llandow, 14 miles West of Cardiff, was the home of 53 Operational Training Unit. This unit operated Miles masters and Spitfires, many of the latter aircraft having seen active service before being downgraded for mostly training duties. (Editors note: The section of the narrative dealing with the loss and subsequent discovery of the remains of F/Sgt. Gardner and Spitfire X4913 some nine months after the crash are missing. Please see separate loss report for details). The Breacons seemed to have had a fatal attraction for Canadian airmen. Even while F/Sgt. Gardner lay dead in his cockpit, six other Canadian fliers perished on these mountains. Five of them were killed when their Wellington bomber R1465 struck the top of Waen Rhydd on July 6th. 1942 and disintegrated over the mountain-side. The other was R100418 Sgt. Donald Perry Carruthers the 20 year old son of Perry Davis Carruthers and Stella Abbie Carruthers of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Like F/Sgt. Gardner, Sgt. Carruthers was on a course of training at 53 OTU, RAF Llandow and on May 23rd, 1942 he took off with other members of his squadron to practice formation flying. He was flying Spitfire X4588 which had seen active service in the Battle of Britain. In poor weather with cloud and rain down to1200 feet. Sgt. Carruthers became separated from the other members of the formation and his base received a radio call from him asking for a homing fix. Communications were good but no further transmissions were received from him.Just like his fellow countryman the Sgt. and his aircraft vanished. An entry on the crash card made out after he went missing reads "Lost and either (1) Flew out to sea or (2) Crashed in mountains."
Nine days elapsed and then on the 1s6t of June, 1942, Mr. John Jones, who worked for the Cardiff Corporation Water works as it was then called, made one of his trips into the mountains to check the water gauges, And it was he who came upon Spitfire X4588 which was half buried and completely smashed to pieces right on top of the ridge falling South from Pen-y-Fan and near the crags of Craig-y-Fan Ddu. Mr. Jones returned the 4 kilometres or more to Cwm Taff and the police were informed. They asked Mr. Jones to guide them to the wreckage, so once more this gallant gentleman made the arduous journey up the steep slopes to the wreck. The charred body of Sgt. Carruthers was removed from the wreckage and taken back down the mountain to Cwm Taff. Here a guard which had been sent from the 21st Infantry Training Company in Brecon were waiting. They were commanded by Lt. Willcox, who asked Mr. Jones to take them to the aircraft. Mr. Jones however was unwilling to make the trip a third time due to fatigue and also the fact that a heavy mist was now descending and would have made it almost impossible to locate the aircraft.
At 1500 hrs. the mist was still very thick and Lt. Willcox reported that he was unable to mount the guard under the circumstances and that P/Officer Thomas of 78 MU had arrived in Cwm Taff and he also was unable to go up the mountain to examine the wreckage. HQ Western Command sent a signal to say that because of the prevailing conditions, mounting the guard would be left to the discretion of the officer in charge and need not be attempted until it was possible to get to the Spitfire without exposing the men to any danger.Eventually weather conditions did improve and a guard was mounted.
Sgt. Carruther's body was taken back to RAF Llandow and later buried in the cemetery at Llantwit Major. He lies there today in section C grave number 26. He too gave his life for our freedom - it's so easy to forget these brave men but we must never do so.
"Express" Weekender, 7th. November 1991
Sgt. Donald Perry Carruthers (courtesy Colin Bamford)
Crash site Remembrance Day 2012 (courtesy Simon Cooper who purchased and laid this fine wreath)
Although it is great that many walkers pass this crash site, it must be remembered that it is protected, so take only photos and leave only footprints or a poppy in remembrance!
(1) Spitfire X4588 Ia Built in the Eastleigh factory and fitted with the Merlin III engine.
(2) Carruthers Lake, East of Nejanilini Lake, Canada, was named after Sgt. Carruthers in 1974
Adele Hughes with her Grandfather Mr. John Jones and the Christmas wreath purchased and placed at the grave site by Adele in memory of Sgt. Carruthers and her Grandfather on behalf of the family, December 2016. Photo's courtesy Adele Hughes
Sgt. Donald Perry Carruthers. Llantwit Major Cemetery. Sector C. Grave 26.
Further information: The only son of Perry Davis Carruthers and Stella B. Abbey Carruthers, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Attended Kelvin Technical High School in Wiinipeg, Canada.
A versatile athlete and the winner of many university trophies, in Hockey, rugby, track, basketball and swimming. He completed two years in the faculty of Agriculture at the University of Manitoba when he enlisted in 1941. One of 5 casualties from WW2 from Rathgar Avenue, Winnipeg, Canada.
After enlisting in Winnipeg on 10 April 1941, he was sent to No.2 Initial Training School, Regina, Saskatchewan and then to No. 14 Elementary Flying School at Portage la Prairie flying Tiger Moths. Upon completion of his training at Portage, he was posted to No.11 Service Flying Training School, Yorkton, Saskatchewan on 10 October 1941. Awarded his Pilots Badge 30 December 1941 he was posted to No.1 "Y" Depot, Halifax, Nova Scotia to await embarkation to the UK. Arriving in Bournemouth 10 February 1942, he would be posted to No. 17 Pilots Advanced Flying Unit, at RAF Calveley, Cheshire for training on Miles Masters on 13 April 1942 and then on 28th April to No. 53 Operational Training Unit at RAF Llandow near Cardiff, Wales. One month later while training on Spitfires he would get lost in bad weather and crash into a mountainside.
With thanks to Adele Hughes for providing us with the news article and photo's and Colin Bamford, our Canadian researcher for discovering the photo and additional information. Thanks also to Simon Cooper and the many people who walk the "Beacons" for bringing this loss to our attention. So many were killed during training and not publicly remembered.