USAAF C-54 D 45-543 on Stake House Fell.

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USAAF C-54 D 45-543 on Stake House Fell

Crashed in low cloud in the Forest of Bowland, January 7th 1949.
All crew and both passengers were killed in the crash. This C-54 was taking part in the Berlin airlift, and was flying from the C-54 base at Rhein Main in Germany to Burtonwood in England. The pilot was in contact with Burtonwood just moments before the crash. It is evident that 1st Lt. Wurgel thought he was several miles South of where the aircraft actually was. A later investigation found that a BBC radio signal had interfered with the Burtonwood signal, ruling out pilot error.

1st Lt. Richard M. Wurgel, Pilot
1st Lt. Lowell A. Wheaton Jr, Co-pilot
Sgt. Bernard J. Watkins, Engineer
Cpl. Norbert H. Theis, Radio Operator
Capt. W. A. Rathgeber, Passenger
Pte. R. E. Stone, Passenger




The C-54 had crashed onto the steep slope of the fell, some metres above the hollow where the remains of the aircraft were broken up and dumped. The aircraft had been carrying some cargo as part of its duties in the Berlin Airlift. This included engines due to be returned to the USA for major overhaul, and some medical supplies. Searching the impact site, I found this fragment of a 1940s four ounce bottle.

10 comments on “USAAF C-54 D 45-543 on Stake House Fell.
  1. andyholmfirth says:

    Are you collecting all the sites Ian ? I’ve a mate who used to go out on foggy days with grid refs for crash sites to practice navigation ! I’ve come across a few – always find them quite moving locations.

  2. Ian D B says:

    they are moving places, but it’s also fun to find them, especially on foggy days! Don’t know about all of them though – there are hundreds.

  3. Tech Owl says:

    Good detail

  4. Tech Owl says:

    I’m intrigued about the ‘trolley’ wheels – can’t really see what they were for. Fantastic detail viewed large

  5. pasujoba says:

    Suprised it didnt sink without trace in the Bowland bogs .
    Great stuff Ian , and a good place to go looking . Under rated is the Forest of Bowland .

  6. k.kearney says:

    Those pulleys are for engine and propeller controls. That is a firewall for one of the 4 engine nacelles. The nearest Pulley is for the Supercharger control. The rusty fragment bolted to it (To the right) is a fragment of the engine mount.

  7. k.kearney says:

    For pictures of the occupants and information about the Berlin Airlift, which this plane was participating in when it crashed, visit

  8. Ian D B says:

    Thanks for the information Kevin.

  9. Brian Fowler says:

    The co-pilot, Lowell Adair Wheaton, was a relative of mine. So sad this happened. Thanks for posting these photos.

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