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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. T M Calderwood


Thomas Morrow Calderwood was born in Belfast in March 1916 and was educated at Mountpottinger School there.

After leaving he spent some time on the staff of the Belfast Steamship Company, where his father was traffic manager.


Above: Calderwood with BEA in May 1957.


Calderwood joined the RAFVR in June 1939 as an Airman u/t Pilot. Called up on 1st September 1939, he completed his training at 8 FTS Montrose on No. 20 Course, which ran from 10th June to 31st August 1940.

He converted to Hurricanes at 6 OTU and then joined 85 Squadron at Church Fenton on 23rd September.

Returning from a night patrol on 9th December 1940 he overshot on landing at Gravesend, his Hurricane ran into barbed wire and turned over. Calderwood, assisted by S/Ldr. Peter Townsend, was able to leave the aircraft uninjured.

Commissioned in July 1941, his subsequent service is currently undocumented until he was released from the RAF in 1946.

He had married Rosemary McIntosh at St. Georges, Edinburgh on 26th June 1943.

Postwar he joined British European Airways where he was known by all as 'Paddy'.




On 28th September 1957 Calderwood was serving with BEA in Scotland where the airline made aircraft available for ambulance flights to and from the Scottish Islands.

An emergency call was made from the Isle of Islay in the Inner Hebrides where a shepherd's wife, Mrs. Margaret McClugash, was seriously ill with diabetes.

BEA de Havilland Heron G-AOFY (below) was allocated with Calderwood as Captain along with Radio Officer Hugh McGinley and Nursing Sister Jean Kennedy.



Calderwood had to carry out a nighttime landing at Islay's airport in low cloud and poor visibility. While turning to its final approach the aircraft's left wing struck the ground, all three crew were killed.

The severe weather abated at dawn the following day, allowing a second Heron, crewed by Captain Eric Starling, First Officer MacLean and Nursing Sister Isobel Thomson to collect Mrs. McClugash from Islay. However she died as the aircraft was approaching Glasgow airport.

The Accident Report stated 'The pilot did not appreciate that the aircraft had rapidly lost height whilst he was making a visual half circuit to land. This could have been due to the absence of sufficient visual reference in the prevailing conditions of darkness, very low cloud and drizzle. The urgent nature of the flight is considered to have influenced the pilot's decision to land'.

The incident is commemorated by a cairn near the site of the old Glasgow (Renfrew) Airport.



...and also a plaque at Islay Airport.






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