Much interest had been aroused concerning the discovery by divers of a wreck of a Catalina flying boat off Cumbrae in 1972, dating back to the days of the Second World War.

Mr Chris Heal of IBM, a Largs resident, and one of the divers, got in touch with the newspaper to say that Mrs Margaret Gray of Blackdales Avenue, Largs brought the story to the notice of her husband.

He had this to say: “The Catalina had been taking part in the training flights for Ferry Command crews for most of the day - a Wednesday in August 1942, doing circuits and bumps.

“It crashed due to an error of the pilot. The mirror-like surface of the water on that very sunny day caused him misjudge his height, The flying boat plunged into the water near Lady Dyke.” Mr Gray added: “Scottish Aviation Ltd who operated the Barrfields Slip tried to tow the crashed aircraft ashore and the Clyde steamer Glen Sannox assisted by putting out a lifeboat. At least one man was picked up but the pilot is believed to have been killed.” Mr Philip Dick, of Holehouse Road, had very much the same story but in a different year.

“A relative of mine witnessed the accident,” he said, “it happened in July or August 1943, when the aircraft was doing circuits and bumps. A passing steamer took the aircraft in tow, to try and get it into shallow water but before this could be done, the plane sank.” Mr Eric Starling’s letter to his paper confirmed the above accounts - the date is believed to be 22 August 1943.

It told of how Mr J.W Gibbs, for many years afterwards, Air Safety Officer for the BEA was a co-pilot when the plane crashed. Wrote Mr Starling: “Gibbie, as he was known by everyone, found himself swimming in the water with the wing floating close by with one of the crew sitting on it. When he put up his arms to grab the wing he found, for the first time that his right arm had been taken off at the shoulder as he flung from the plane.” Further confirmation of these accounts came this week in a letter from Mr Gavin B Crawford to the ‘News’. He wrote: “Having witnessed the crash of this Catalina, I was most interested in Mr Eric Starling’s report of ‘Gibbie’ in your paper. I could not agree more with Mr Starling’s remark that the air-sea rescue craft should been standing by.

“She might have refuelled, but I can assure you, at the point of impact the rescue-boat was anchored off the boating stance with the crew in bathing trunks lying flat on the deck.

“Being on leave myself from the RAF and having a considerable experience in flying I knew by the steep approach at 1000 feet of the Catalina’s landing from the north that a crash was inevitable.

“I ran from a very crowded promenade to the water’s edge in an attempt to alert the rescue boat crew.

“The steamer, Glen Sannox, en route from Brodick to Fairlie, was due to shallows, well north of Allan’s Bay, Cumbrae, when the flying boat was nose down in the water at 45 degrees.

“When the steamer eventually arrived at the scene she lowered her starboard lifeboat.

“Before the rescue boat arrived from Largs the tail of the plane had disappeared, after having been afloat, I would say, for 20 minutes.” Eric Starling recalled: “On the day of the crash, Gibbs was doing doing circuits and splashes or take-offs and landings to be more precise with another pilot.

“It was his turn first with the other pilot acting as co-pilot. He never told me the pilot’s name. After a while, they changed places. The other pilot made a mess of the first landing and the flying boat crashed. The air sea rescue launch which should have been standing-by was away refuelling.

“However, Gibbie, as he was known by everyone, found himself swimming in the water with the wing floating close by. with one of the crew sitting on it.

“As he swam across, he noticed a lot of blood in the water and assumed it came from someone else. When he put up his arms to grab the wing, only one came up, For the first time he discovered that his right arm had been taken off at the shoulder as he was flung out of the flying boat.

“When Gibbie found I was from Largs he jokingly asked me to keep an eye out for his mother’s gold wedding ring when I was bathing because he had been wearing it on his right hand fingers.” * Last year, David Hendry Snr of Largs said: “The accident on Cumbrae involved Captain Ernest Cook, Flight Captain Jose Carreras from Spain, and flying officer Gibbs, who all survived the accident, but sadly, the body of Flight Engineer Harold Frank Peter Waldron was never found.

“Flight captain Jose Maria Carreras, who was a former Spanish Civil War pilot, was instructing on the seaplane when through no fault of his own, the aircraft crashed.

“During 1943 in wartime, such accidents and crashes were covered up to keep the propaganda campaign positive, so little was known at the time about the crash until long afterwards. The consolidated Catalina FP321 swung on landing after a training flight and sank on 22 April 1943.” The wreck has proven to be a popular spot for divers in the local area for many years but some reports now suggest that the area has been so ravaged that it has deteriorated to a significant degree. For pictures of the wreck, go here: