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24 September 2014
Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

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   Inside Out - North West: Monday 9th September, 2002

DARK SECRETS IN DARK PEAK

Cockpit of the Defiant aircraft

Dubbed the Bermuda triangle of the North West, Dark Peak has been the scene of over 50 plane crashes in 30 years.

Inside Out uncovers just one of the great mysteries hidden in Derbyshire’s Bermuda Triangle.

Talk of the valleys

Remains of a plane in Dark Peak
Dark Peak has been the scene of over 50 planes crashes

The landscape of Dark Peak is known for its beauty and is a great attraction to ramblers. But in the 30s 40s and 50s, the area was the scene of over 130 deaths from plane crashes, many of which remain largely unexplained.

The ‘spooks’ industry has had a field day. Ghost stories, paranormal forces and tales of aliens have been the talk of the valleys.

Bizarre Explanations

Today historians investigating the accidents are uncovering more and more bizarre explanations for the accidents. Most of the crashes were before, during and shortly after the second world war.

Many were caused by basic pilot errors but others have been put down to young pilots "showing off", giving their mates a lift or going off course in order to get a peek of their home from the air. As one historian told us, "They were the joyriders of their day."

Even to this day the landscape is still peppered with the remains of wrecks. But behind the mangled wreckage are some fascinating human stories, many of them remain mysteries and untold.

Unexplained death

Newspaper report of George's death
George Hempstead's death was unexplained

Professional golfer George Hempstead was killed on August 29th, 1941. He was a passenger in a Defiant aircraft.

George was hitching a ride back to base but the plane crashed on the Dark Peak. The newspapers reported his death but didn’t explain how he died.

Nephews Paul and Peter Hempstead return to the hills where their uncle died in an attempt to shed new light on his unexplained death more than 60 years ago.

Helped by Phil Shaw, whose father was a fire officer and had visited the scene of the crash, Paul and Peter learn that the bodies of George and his pilot had been lying on the hills for almost a month.

They were seated by the fuselage and had survived the crash. The pilot had obviously tried to help George but both perished on the hills.

A twist in the tale

New information from a historian provides a twist in the tale.

Bullet holes were discovered in the plane, which is now housed in a museum in Wolverhampton. Although it is not certain that friendly fire brought the plane down, what is certain is that the plane was not supposed to by flying over the North West at all.

Paul and Peter Hempstead
The brothers return to the moors

It is reported that many pilots would take detours over their home towns and with poor navigation systems, dropping below cloud level was necessary to obtain their whereabouts - a hazardous practice in the mountainous terrain of the Peak District.

Dark Peak it seems is unwilling to reveal the whole truth about what actually happened that fateful day in August, and indeed to those remaining 49 plane crashes.

But as Inside Out has proved, the truth, or at least part of the truth is out there.

One mystery solved - 49 to go. Good work Inside Out.

See also ...

On the rest of the web
The Peak District
Dark Peak
Peak District Air Crashes
Ghost Fliers Theories
Ghostly Plane Sightings

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