The shredded remains of this relic from the earlier days of British jet aircraft, lie on the windswept Grouse moors of Apedale, one of the smaller and lesser visited valleys that comprise the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Much of the land is owned by the 8th Lord Bolton, and is maintained for recreational shooting, but there are many hiking trails threading throughout it, as well as the ruined remains of the area’s industrial mining past that makes for a rewarding trek.
The Gloster Aircraft Company (as pronouncing and spelling ‘Gloucestershire’ was not easy for some of their foreign markets – and I daresay some locals too) was responsible for producing the UK’s very first jet aircraft (the Whittle), and the first jet fighter (the Meteor), before developing the Javelin, which entered service in 1956. It went through 9 phases from it’s introduction, through to it’s eventual retirement in 1968, which were prefixed ‘FAW’ (Fighter: All Weather), each of which consisted of multiple revisions and improvements over the previous version.
The wreckage is strewn all over a heather covered hillside, and you wouldn’t guess it’s been lying there for nearly 60 years – many of the pieces are still nice and shiny thanks to its aluminium alloy construction which is remarkably resistant to corrosion. There are many thousands of pieces, most resting on the surface, although some are buried underneath the topsoil. The local Grouse appear to be particularly fond of it judging by amount of droppings present on the fragments, and in the length of time it’s been laid there, I’m (pleasantly) surprised it hasn’t been more looted.
I’m no expert when it come to the identification of over half a century old jet parts, so I can’t really tell what many of the pieces would once have been. They’ve been effectively anonymised by the force of the impact, twisting them in mysterious ways and some of them are just too tiny to even begin to guess at what they were once part of. The majority of these smaller pieces are located at the top of the hill, which I suspect is where the impact occurred, disintegrating much of the aircraft, with the pieces getting gradually larger as you go further downhill as far as momentum and gravity took it. Much of the wreck was covered in snow when I visited, which made for some nice photos, but means I might well have missed some interesting pieces. Of particular note is one of the original rear tyres, which is shredded, but you can quite clearly read the embossed information on the surface, along with probably the largest piece of metal on the site: One of the large jet pipes, which was flattened in the crash and now resembles (in my mind at least) the mouth of a whale shark.
As for the future? The MoD legally own the remains of all crashed military aircraft until such a time as they choose to dispose of them, so it’s technically illegal to move or interfere with any part of the wreckage unless you’ve applied for a specific license. Realistically, I can’t see them doing anything about it at all – what’s left isn’t worth the cost it would take to recover, and I imagine it’ll be left to slowly decay gracefully amongst the heather overlooking the valley below. Definitely not the worst resting place I can think of.