A former journalist has thanked members of the public for helping him solve the mystery of a wartime parachute tragedy “cover up” that happened on the River Tay 80 years ago.
Michael Mulford, 71, a Dundee-raised former DC Thomson and STV reporter, who finished his career as RAF public relations officer for Scotland, said an appeal to Taysiders had helped him trace information about the drowning of seven fully-laden paratroopers who were dropped to their deaths during an exercise over Wormit Bay.
The men, training for the D-Day landings, were supposed to be dropped 10 miles to the east at Tentsmuir as part of a top-secret exercise to see if paratroopers could be dropped into a tight space.
However, for reasons unknown, two of the 10 converted Whitley bombers that had flown from Salisbury Plain carrying 130 troops veered around the coast towards Wormit and offloaded their men from 800ft into around 30ft of water west of the Tay Bridge.
The second aircraft over Wormit contained nine men from the 8th (Midlands) Battalion of the Parachute Regiment. Seven drowned, one refused to jump after seeing his colleagues’ fate and was court-martialed.
The ninth, Regimental Sergeant Major Alan Pearson, landed on a narrow sandbank and made it ashore.
Another paratrooper died at Tentsmuir when he was struck during the jump by an ammunition box.
Michael’s interest in the events of June 13 1943 was sparked by his late mother Anna Mulford telling him how she witnessed the whole episode as she stood at Wormit Bay while heavily pregnant.
Michael, of Cupar, said: “My mother knew that for many of the soldiers, their last moments would be the realisation their parachutes had no control and the only way from 800ft was to a watery grave.”
The rescue operation involved RAF Air-Sea rescue launches and the RNLI lifeboat from Broughty Ferry.
A Polish officer who arrived told Michael’s mum “they are all OK”. However, she knew that could not be true. In fact, he was reporting correctly that 10 Polish troops had landed in the shallows and made it ashore.
When Michael started training as a reporter in the mid-1960s, his mum implored him to ask the senior reporters what had really happened.
However, they said they had never heard of the tragedy.