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Recommended List of Scottish Books
Scottish Mysteries

Donald Fraser

‘Truth is Out There’, Claims Investigator of Scottish Mysteries


Donald Fraser’s curiosity about unsolved crimes, inexplicable accidents and all manner of unusual occurrences has led him to years of research and writing. The outcome is the publication of a selection of the cases that have intrigued him most, under the title Scottish Mysteries.

‘For a great many years I have been fascinated by certain types of mysteries’, explains Donald. However he has often been frustrated by the scarcity of hard facts in the few available books. He is a firm believer in the popular saying that ‘the truth is out there’, but equally convinced of the need to go and find it for himself. And, while he is happy to put forward his own solutions and theories, he is equally willing to allow the reader to draw his or her own conclusions from the best available evidence.

Amongst the ten cases Donald examines are some celebrated mysteries that have captured the imaginations of generations of Scots, and others that have never been dealt with in a book before. They include: ‘The Deserted Beacon’, the strange disappearance of three lighthouse keepers from the Flannen Isles; ‘Robbery or Revenge?’, a mystery assailant fires a volley of shots through a remote cottage window on the Ayrshire coast, killing one of the occupants; ‘Sabotaged?’, the extraordinary disappearance of submarine HMS Vandal; ‘The Edinburgh Bushrangers’, could two men who ran riot in Scotland’s capital have been fugitives from Ned Kelly’s gang in Australia?

Most controversially of all, in ‘A Royal Tragedy … or Cover-up?’, the author uncovers startling new evidence that despite years of official denials, the Duke of Kent may have piloted the plane that crashed into a Highland hillside in 1942, claiming his own life and the lives of 13 passengers and crew.

The author does most of his writing in the wee small hours, combining it, as he does, with a full-time job. He prefers to draw a veil over his daytime activities, revealing only that they too involve him with mysteries of one sort or another!

With dry wit and a keen eye for detail, Donald Fraser, whose previous book was the popular Scottish Disasters, skillfully evokes the time and setting of each incident and discloses a wealth of new and unexpected information in the process.


From Chapter 8: ‘A Royal Tragedy… or Cover-up?’

Scotland’s adverse weather has featured in many of the most horrific accidents, disasters and tragedies that have befallen our nation in past years. Indeed, even in this book, in half of the chapters, nature’s elements play their part, whether it be in a major role or otherwise. Perhaps the influence that hostile weather conditions exert is severely misjudged, for it seems that when they are involved, the mystery invariably becomes all the greater.

At the start of World War II, Oban, thanks to its natural sheltered position on the west coast of the mainland and its excellent communication network, was selected as suitable for the location of a front-line RAF Coastal Command Station. Its aircraft, all of them flying boats, were to patrol the North Atlantic on missions aimed at keeping the waters of the Northern Approaches safe from lurking enemy U-boats, monitoring convoy movements and taking part in search and rescue operations. The air crews who flew the flying boats were a truly international force, with men from all corners of the world in their ranks. Unfortunately, the turnover in personnel of Coastal Command was abnormally high due to the large number of losses compared to some other branches of the RAF.

In March 1942, as part of the natural rotation of squadrons around the various bases, no. 228 Squadron brought their Sunderland aircraft to Oban from Stranraer. Unbeknown to anyone at this time, one of their planes was to feature later that year in a major mystery of the War.

Flight Lieutenant Frank McKenzie Goyen, an Australian from the state of Victoria, although only 25 years of age, was one of the most experienced pilots on the base with thousands of flying hours to his credit. His aircraft, a Mark III Sunderland with the call sign W-4026, had a crew of ten, all of them experienced in operational matters. The youngest, 20-year-old rear gunner, Flight Sergeant Andrew Jack, was a Grangemouth lad. His father was a foreman docker in his home town, a well-known semi-professional footballer who was proud of his son’s achievement in defending his country.

On Sunday 23rd August 1942, six months into their tour of duty at Oban and after flying hundreds of missions, the crew of W-4026 were given a break from fighting the war and instructed to fly their plane to the RAF base at Invergordon on the Dornoch Firth, where they were to uplift a special passenger.

The Sunderland took off from Oban and followed the length of the Caledonian Canal until reaching its destination. Although this was probably the shortest route in any case, Goyen was following instructions that a flying boat should always attempt to route any journey over water. Perhaps one reason behind this was that these types of aircraft were notorious for their slow rate of climb, the maximum being about 200 feet a minute, and therefore they were not particularly agile. They were, after all, flying boats, and not really suitable for use in the mountainous areas of the Highlands.

On arrival at Invergordon, the crew discovered that their VIP passenger was to be His Royal Highness, the Duke of Kent, brother of the King. In his capacity as Air Commodore in the Department of the Inspector General, the Duke had been given the task of visiting RAF bases and interviewing the flight crews and ground staff, listening and noting their grievances or otherwise and thereafter reporting his findings to the Air Ministry. With hindsight, it was probably nothing more than a round of Royal visits designed to keep up the morale of the men at the sharp end. After all, here was a member of the Royal family in military uniform doing his bit for the war effort. It gave the right impression to the public at large that no one was exempt from pulling together to defeat the enemy.

As their distinguished passenger was not due to arrive at Invergordon until Tuesday, the early arrival of W-4026 gave the crew time to relax and enjoy their surroundings. Many old acquaintances were met in the mess and stories of earlier exploits told and re-told. Goyen’s crew, like almost every other, had varying backgrounds. Counting himself, it consisted of three Australians, one New Zealander and seven British. Irrespective of their differences, everyone now had a common purpose and enemy.

The Duke of Kent and his entourage of three others arrived in Inverness early on Tuesday morning, 25th August 1942, from the overnight sleeper train from London, and he was driven the last few miles to Invergordon. He had instructions to visit the RAF base at Reykjavik on Iceland, a place he had been to before. After meeting with Goyen, he was introduced to the crew members, who included Wing Commander Thomas L. Moseley, another Australian who, as the Commanding Officer of 228 Squadron, had invited himself along and would be acting as co-pilot on this trip, bringing the total crew number to eleven.

Once everyone was safely on board, the Sunderland began her taxi-ing in the Firth. Unusually, on this day the sea was flat calm and the flying boat thundered along the surface for longer than usual, carrying 15 personnel, over 2,500 gallons of fuel and a full payload of munitions. Goyen was looking ahead for any sign of even a small wave that he might be able to use, like a ramp, to give his plane a final push into the air. Eventually, after about three miles, the huge aircraft gained air under its belly and slowly began to climb into the sky. It was 1.10 p.m.

At this point, the first mystery arises. There are no copies of the W-4026 flight plan available today. This was not a flight plan filed by the pilot, but one that had been made up for him to follow and was therefore part of his orders. That such a thing existed there is no doubt, because it was later referred to in official correspondence, but what happened to it, and the official orders, can only be guessed at.

The usual flight path for an aircraft flying to Iceland was for it to follow the coastline north to the Pentland Firth, then turn west and head for the Faroe Islands and thereafter the ultimate destination. It was planned in this manner so that as usual, the plane would be flying over water at all times. Only in emergencies were flights allowed to cut across the corner of this part of the mainland, and then only when north of Wick, where there are no mountains as such, only hills of medium height.

Fifteen minutes into the journey, the Sunderland hit a mixture of cloud and dense fog. However, this had been expected, thanks to the accurate weather forecasts from the base at Invergordon. These reports also mentioned that the foul weather was localised, as the Pentland Firth was in clear conditions. W-4026 flew on in the fog blind, using her instruments to calculate height, speed and direction, and what happened in the next five to fifteen minutes no-one can say with absolute certainty.

Between 1.30 and 1.40 p.m., the Sunderland was heard droning its way lazily above a river valley known as Berriedale Water, which is south of Dunbeath, which in turn is south of Wick. The noise of its Bristol Pegasus engines startled a number of the locals, who could hear it but could not see it, due to the mist.

The plane continued up the valley and passed to the side of a 2,000-foot high ridge known locally as Donald’s Mount. As it lumbered on, slowly losing altitude, the 800-foot high cliff of Eagle’s Rock loomed out of the fog. The Sunderland tried hard to climb and turn away from the rising edge of the rock face, the pitch of her engines now a roar, but it was all too late. The aircraft struck the side of the ridge leading to the cliff and cartwheeled a number of times.

The wings broke off as the fuel tanks, almost full, along with the depth charge munitions, exploded and engulfed everything in a massive fireball. Only one man survived the inferno.

At the moment of impact, the rear gun turret had broken off completely from the main fuselage and, like a human cannonball, Andrew Jack found himself being hurled through the air, ensconced in his glass dome, and clear of the explosion. He was badly injured, receiving cuts and gashes from where he had made contact with the broken glass, but although stunned and shocked, he managed to free himself and immediately went towards the crash site…


‘The credo of the X Files generation. "The truth is out there", is quoted by the author in his foreword to this collection of real-life riddles from Scotland. The truths he seeks through dogged detective work are more down-to-earth than the paranormal territory investigated by Agents Mulder and Scully, but they are nevertheless all gripping mysteries.’—The Herald


Donald Fraser was born and brought up in Glasgow and still lives in the city with his wife and two children. He finished his education in the same year that comprehensive schools were brought in. His writing is done mostly in the wee small hours, combining it, as he does, with a full-time job. Between both, his involvement with mysteries of one sort or another is continuous. He is the author of Scottish Disasters, also published by Mercat Press.



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