Boulton Paul Defiant N3378 on Bleaklow

‹ Return to

29 August 1941.

Flying from RAF Turnhouse (now Edinburgh Airport) to RAF Hibaldstow in Lincolnshire, Defiant N3378 crashed on Bleaklow while descending through low cloud, 46 miles off track.

Pilot Officer James Craig and Aircraftman Second Class George Daniel Hempstead (a passenger in the gun turret) both initially survived the crash but were badly injured and unable to seek help. They died and their bodies were found sitting beside the wrecked Defiant a month later.

There is an apocryphal story that the Defiant was shot down by friendly fire from a Spitfire but there is no evidence to support it. As Pat Cunningham says, a greater mystery is how it came to be that the wreck and the crew were not found for over a month, despite immediatley being reported missing. The crash site is at a place called ‘Near Bleaklow Stones’ which although on a vast featureless moor, is still only two miles from the nearest road and the crash happened in early autumn, not the middle of winter.

Re; the photo above, Al and I approached from behind and first shook some of the snow from the debris and then I leaned over the pile to plant the poppy cross, leaving the snow around undisturbed and free of footprints.

23 comments on “Boulton Paul Defiant N3378 on Bleaklow
  1. Ian D B says:

    Below. Summer visit

    Boulton Paul Defiant N3378 on Bleaklow, Peak District.

    Below. A Boulton Paul gun turret on display at the Yorkshire Air Museum.
    Boulton Paul Type A Mk VII Turret

    Defiant N3378 served with 255 Squadron and was a night fighter, so would have been painted matt black.

    Although Defiants were designed to attack unescorted bombers they acheived early successes against all Luftwaffe aircraft. However, Defiants had no forward firing guns, their sole armament being the turret guns. German fighter pilots escorting their bomber streams soon got the measure of Defiants and learned that from below they were defenceless. Huge numbers were shot down resulting in the Defiants’ different role as night fighters.

    The one remaining Defiant (N1671) in existence is seen here in night fighter paint scheme on Janner88’s stream. N1671 is currently being restored.


    Halfway through this Youtube clip is some period Defiant action! Link opens in a new tab.

    Below; Some of the remains at the crash site of Defiant N3378 have been moved to a display at the Boulton Paul Association museum in Wolverhampton to create a diorama.

    Photo above by Marl Ansell, and sourced from The Boulton Paul Association website;….

  2. crusader752 says:

    Wonderful image Ian – the colour range from the red through white to the blue perhaps stirs my patriotism but it’s a striking shot though a sad end to two young lives. Great info as always backed by your other images. The Defiant was always an intriguing aeroplane – built the Airfix kit when I was knee high and the fact that there was an aeroplane with it’s own turret belied the fact that it was actually a poorly thought out design. Not sure how it faired as a Night Fighter and such a shame ther’e is only the one now! I think I saw a recent shot of her back in situ having been lovingly restored by the team down at Medway 🙂

  3. Highy says:

    That’s come out really well mate, lovely shot, it was well worth waiting for that patch of light on the hillside across the way there.
    It’s an interesting story too, certainly worth a bit of investigation, a pilot a long way off course indeed.

    Worth a look in lightbox I reckon.

  4. Ian D B says:

    [] []
    Thanks both. Al, I never mentioned, this aircraft was flying to an airbase not a million miles from you!
    Thanks for that Rob, yes it looks like MAPS have finished the restoration, have to keep an eye out for when it goes back on display at Hendon.
    The Defiant’s poor reputation is unfairly due to it being thrown into the Battle or Britain but it was never a fighter… But then it wasn’t designed to attack bomber streams escorted by 109s either.

  5. nondesigner59 says:

    More Excellent work Ian.. Well done.

  6. mick cooke says:

    great work once again ian ,always a very good story and information to your photos
    take care

  7. pasujoba says:

    It looks like it was a terrific day out Ian . It also looks like the pile of wreckage we made has stayed in a pile !

  8. Tech Owl says:

    You consistantly provide a raft of information and present it in a interesting way – ever thought of teaching?

  9. gastephen says:

    nice shot, Ian

  10. Ian D B says:

    [] Thanks Bryan. Teaching? I do already – sort of. Provide training about once a month but that’s part of my day job and nothing to do with this. This is how I unwind from work!
    [] Thank you.
    [] This pile has been here a long while? Or was it scattered when we found it? It gets moved about a lot I suppose. I wonder if that is how the plaque that used to be on the wooden post got smashed? Cunningham says that was deliberate vandalism. Mind he also says there was an American family memorial at the Dakota site which got smashed 10 years ago as well, so it may well have been.
    [] [] Cheers Mick and Malcolm!

  11. **PhillR** says:

    Top job. 🙂

  12. SolarScot. says:

    a really poignant shot Ian,by the way i used Picmonkey for the dyptich

  13. cgullz says:

    from what I’ve read I wouldn’t wanted to have been crewed to a Defiant, there was some real pluck by those that flew in aircraft that were known not to have the balls to do the job: and a real shame that the pace of aircraft design and manufacture didn’t get the hurry up earlier on. grand series, love that yr doing seasonal posts too i can relate to that. as Rob mentioned, the colours are very inviting in this shot, great thinking batman with the sans-prints forethought.

  14. Ian D B says:

    [] Ta mate, I shall check it out or try something similar using the software I have. It’s a really cool idea, lots I can think of where that sort of presentation would work well.
    [] Cheers Ears. Al and meself both thought the same as we set off that morning – to avoid leaving footprints visible where possible. It comes from experience of photographing crash sites where we end up with boot prints in the wet peat around the debris. It looks crap and careless. As for a Defiant yeah but I’d still be volunteering! Or I would as a young man. Hurricanes were scarier because of the position of the fuel tank, right in front of the pilot…
    [] Thank you!

  15. cgullz says:

    [] perhaps, but at least the Hurry could get a hurry on! i’d be in the one with the fighting chance!

  16. IANLAYZELLUK says:

    Superb Image.

  17. Jainbow says:

    The snow makes the scene look extra bleak :~}

  18. salfordlad1 says:

    As always, fantastic. Skilled photography coupled with skilled writing is always a winner for me..Brilliant to follow and digest.

  19. stiemer says:

    Great shot and history again Ian.

  20. amyrey says:

    Fascinating and sad.

    Thks for giving away some of your secrets of snow-field photography.

  21. Chris Eley says:

    255 Squadron Association is organising a trek to the crash site on the 75th anniversary. Details on their website. Wanted: Up-to-date contact info for the Boulton Paul Association.

  22. Chris Eley says:

    Ian DB – Please contact 255 Squadron Association. Seeking your consent to reproduce this image on our website. Office AT 255 DOT org DOT uk.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.