P-51D Mustang 44-72181 (“Sunny VIII”) on Castleshaw Moor.

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P-51D Mustang 44-72181 (formerly ‘Sunny VIII’) on Castleshaw Moor.

29 May 1945. Mustang 44-72181 (formerly “Sunny VIII”) was the lead in a formation of 23 Mustangs being delivered from the south east of England to Liverpool for eventual transport to the far east, where the war against Japan was ongoing.

Flying through low cloud and smog, the aircraft became disoriented and the individual pilots either found Liverpool by good fortune or returned to base.

However, two Mustangs crashed with the loss of both pilots while descending through the cloud in the hope of seeing the ground and getting their position fixed.

One was near Glossop, flown by FO Darnaby H Wilhoit, USAAF.

The other was here on Castleshaw Moor near Oldham, and First Lieutenant Frederick was killed in the crash but his wingman just clipped the ground as he pulled away at the last moment. He had the luck to survive and return home.

Details from Peakland Air Crashes – The North, by P Cunningham;
Revised grid ref SD 99904 11132

Update and grid reference revised February 2023
Please see the comment below in response to a 2016 query about the location of the crash site.

I had visited the year before and thought then that the debris pool had been moved south of the place it had previously been. I’d visited the original spot using the coordinates several times before so in 2015 took a photo at what I had thought was the original location where there were some flakes of metal remaining but nothing bigger. I wandered about and found the larger debris but didn’t have a GPS device on me so could not confirm the exact location.

These two photos below were taken in May 2015, showing the relocated debris and the flakes of debris at the previous location.

I had intended to revisit to check, but only got round to it in February 2023. The crash site remains are now at grid ref SD 99904 11132. It does look like there is a bit less now than there was 8 years ago. I initially went to the original spot but could not see any flakes of debris but the area was covered in long grass. A metal detector sweep would confirm it.

This image is via Grid Reference Finder and shows the old spot and the new one.

These two photos taken February 2023


Simulation of how this Mustang once looked…

From this site

32 comments on “P-51D Mustang 44-72181 (“Sunny VIII”) on Castleshaw Moor.
    • Ged says:

      I went 2014 after Ian added the grid ref and found it quite easily. went up end of last year 2015, and it wasn’t where I’s expected it to be, didn’t spend long though because the weather was torrential.

  1. pasujoba says:

    Missed this one somehow . , this one is very close by ,and easy to get to , on the South Pennines map.

  2. pasujoba says:

    Been to it now ….850m or so from the road , the grass made it hard to see from any distance at all but once stood in the right place it was ok.

  3. nick goth says:

    I read of this Mustang crash in Dark Peak plane wrecks 30 years ago. Have been to some but not this. Will go to this one. Didn’t know anything was left. Very sad so many pilots were lost in bad weather or training crashes. Also another Sunny 8 was and pilot. RIP.


    • Ian D B says:

      Thanks Nick, let me know if you need the ten figure grid ref. Sad about the other Sunny VIII too, thanks for the link.

      • nick goth says:

        Hi Ian i went to look for the Mustang crash on Castleshaw Moor. Didn’t find the crash tho i know we was close. Took some photos for reference of the area. Is the plane on the high or low bit of the moor? Did a grid search but no joy and searched the whole moor well inland to the edge where the rocks are to the trig point. The low bit is a big area with farmer’s fields walled off. Go back sometime.

        • Ian D B says:

          Hi Nick,
          Last time was up there (May 2015) I thought someone had moved most of the debris about 50m to the south of what I thought was the correct spot. I found these fragments (photo below) at what I thought was the crash site, or at least the place where the debris pool was. However I wasn’t using GPS but going off memory from previous visits, so I wasn’t certain and could not verify and figured I must have been mistaken. But you not being able to locate the spot might verify that, though why anyone would move the debris is beyond me. Likewise need to re-visit but will take GPS and confirm the location. Will try get up there in next week or so, will post an update on here. The photo posted above was taken May 2015.

          • nick goth says:

            Hi Ian well i wanna find this birds remains as its been so frustrating lol. never knew she was so damn close but hey way it is. Not close now tho… I’m in Manilla where i live…

            Your pic shows small bits. Where are the big bits? In plane museum or stolen?

            Will maybe go to England next summer to see ppl there and finally find Sunny8. way over due.

            Keep in touch mate, my mail is: nickspoetrybooks4@yahoo.co.uk

            thanx on your reply…

            I’ve no idea of crash location except area except from a grid search. As i said, low or high bit of the hill…

            rock n roll m/

          • Ian D B says:

            Hi Nick, you have reminded me to get back up there. Likesay, the bigger bits appear to have been moved, I need get back up there and check. Forgot al about this. The rest of it has been lifted by souvenir hunters over the years. Give us a shout next time you’re in UK if I haven’t updated this page and will make sure you have the directions and correct grid ref to see what remains (which ain’t much).

        • Ged Kelly says:

          Hi Nick, I thing the nearest Trig is Cupwith hill which is quite a way (about 2 miles) from the crash debris that I’ve seen.

  4. Ged K says:

    Ian, this one is very close to me, any chance I could have the grid refs.

  5. nick goth says:

    Hi Ian, hopefully i’ll be back in England next summer. Then will visit this crash and find it once and for all. Shame bits have been taken. Why would the other bits be moved? Seems odd. Yes, the right grid ref is good. I looked in a grid square search but found nothing. We was on top of the moor and covered it all. There’s a big area of lower ground of fields etc. Don’t think it’s there tho. Are you able to give me long/lat co-ordinates too thanx. Or is there a way to convert it accurately? Can use my phone to get accurate long/lat fix. Thanx mate, Nick.

    • Ian D B says:

      You could plot it on a map with the grid ref then locate the spot on google earth, that might give you the coordinates?

      • nick goth says:

        Hi Ian my computer is acting up now. Can’t download google earth. I tried and it failed twice. And the damn autofill form thing acts up here. I’ll see if it will again then try to overlay the map details. Not sure how accurate google maps is tho? I’m in the uk soon and will have a trip to the moor again.

        (IMPORTANT note to moderator, pls take part of my address of the comment thing below here. my computer is acting up. remove it for my privacy thanx the exequiel sto nino comment)

  6. Ged Kelly says:

    Went up there just after Remembrance Sunday this year, doesn’t appear to be a lot left compared to even a couple of years ago, some of it seems to be sinking into the bog too. Can’t see how to add a picture or I would.

    • nick goth says:

      Hi Ged i think you must upload the photo on another website like flickr and copy the photo link into the website data block so it uploads it.

      On trig points there is one on Marsden Moor and also on Castleshaw Moor (actually Trig point on Millstone Edge above Castleshaws Reservoirs). Isn’t the Millstone Edge one close to the crash site? thanx.

      • Ian D B says:

        hi both, sorry this site was down over Christmas so never replied at the time but you can send any photos to me (email address on contact page) and I will add. Nick have removed your address by the way, I approve comments before publishing so no-one saw it.

  7. Ged Kelly says:

    Hi Nick, now I know which trig you mean. It’s about 3/4 of a mile NNW from that trig, not far from the small stream.

  8. Ged Kelly says:

    Actually just checked on Bing maps and it looks a lot less, maybe 1800 feet (1/3 mile)

  9. nick goth says:

    hi Ged is it, the crash site, 1800 feet NNW from the Castleshaw Moor trig point? Thanx

    @Ian i will me in England mid march onwards so plan to go to the crash sometime soon. Determined to find it at last…

  10. nick goth says:

    as a note on the crash location part of the reservoirs are visible in some photos that also show wreckage. This means the crash site is not far inland on top of the moorland. I thought on the low bit with farmers fields with walls etc. A big area of less height.

  11. Ged says:

    Hi Nick
    I went up there Sat to check for you. My first estimate was more accurate than my bing measurement. it’s actually 1500 meters from the trig bearing 298 degrees. Looking at some of the pics on here, there appears to be some wreckage on higher ground, but I’ve not been able to find that (other than small fragments). I’ve created a flicker account to give the pic which I’m about to try and attach. The red x on the Pennine way (lower right) is the trig. The end of the blue track is the position of the stuff I am able to find.

  12. nick goth says:

    Hi Ged thanx for the photos. Is the trig the actual Castleshaw Moor one? Was the wreckage scattered or at 2 or more sites then? Sounds like it. Ive saved your 2 photos, thanx for the effort there. Ill orient myself to them in regards to the photos i took. Do have long/lat gps co-ordinates too? My phone has them so can use it to navigate. Im in England soon so we shall look again. Thanx for the help on this 🙂

  13. Ged says:

    Hi Nick

    The tring is on castleshaw moor, but I’m not sure what you mean by the castleshaw moor trig, I don’t think that there is one called that. That x is the position of the ‘Standage’ trig point, the only other that I know anywhere near the site is the one at Cupwith hill. The reservoir you can see in the pic is the Castleshaw one. I’ve not fond much of the aircraft, but I think it is scattered. Two years ago I found some piston parts about 60 yards from that piece, but I think those have now been taken by some moron.

  14. nick goth says:

    Hi Ged and Ian, i was in England and did indeed find the Sunny8 crash so a big thanx for the help and info. Also found the Lizzie Lysander crash on the moors near Chew when my mate was looking for some damn lost valley hehe. Will visit more crashes and the valley my pal goes on about next time i visit England. 🙂

    Now I’m trying to find the name of a publication that has been published for decades. An old skool one. I bought some from New Brighton plane museum in the mid 80s at Fort Perch Rock. They were either monthly or quarterly. I write poems when inspired, all manner of things. I did one on with the line featuring Russian/Soviet warplane crashes on the hills/moors/mountains in the UK. Madly upon searching i found that it was true. Soviet pilots were killed in crashes in the UK. I found a publication listing them online, the same i bought decades ago. I book marked the page for later. That was on my old computer that died. Of course now i can’t find the webpage.

    You got any ideas? The logo was a bent prop seen from the front roughly drawn. Need the right magazine as all are different issues on different crashes.

    Thanx rock n roll 🙂

    RIP NEVER FORGET the lost aircrew

  15. David Butler says:

    I flew in Spencer Flack’s facsimile ‘Sunny VIII’ (N1051S) at the SSAFA airshow, RAF Church Fenton, back in the early ’90’s and helped with the marketing of it on the show circuit for a couple of years. We were all devastated to here of it’s accident at an airshow in New York a year or so after it returned to the States, I was doubly distraught when I read in Dark Peaks book that the original hadn’t made it home. So sad.

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