In April 2010 I was in contact with one of the victim’s relatives of the Eagle Viking Blackbushe accident, which occurred in May 1957. This person had a number of questions about the accident. As the archivist I offered to help if I could in answering her questions. At he end of a conversation she made the comment that it seemed that those who died had been forgotten, as she was not aware of a memorial to their memory.
After further research it became clear that there was not a memorial. After some time I was able to locate the owners of the Star Hill Plantation where the aircraft came down. Permission was granted to enter the property. So armed with the accident report map I began my search. Although it is difficult to pinpoint with certainty the accident site the general location of the site itself is fairly clear.
The search began to try and trace relatives of the victims. A lot of help came from postings on the Internet. After months and hundreds of phone calls and other research, a small number of families were traced.
During conversations with relatives the common point was made that there was no memorial to their loved ones.
It seemed to me that this should be rectified. All our other sites of fatal accidents had memorials to those who were lost. An approach was then made to the management of Blackbushe Airport to see if there was anywhere we could erect a memorial on their property. It was suggested that we use the control tower, which already had two memorials fixed on it.
Two other sites had been considered but they would not have been accessible to the public. The Blackbushe Airport site was accepted with thanks.
As the months passed and many more phone calls later it was decided to have a memorial service and unveiling of the plaque on the 19th October 2011.
An appeal for donations went out in the first place to Ex Eagle staff. The response was magnificent. Various other organisations and individuals also donated towards the expenses. For all of which I was grateful.
By the end of September 2011 we had located seven families. About two weeks before the event one other family was located, making the total found eight
Some 150 people attended the ceremony. Among them many Ex Eagle staff with their Founder/ Chairman Mr. Harold Bamberg CBE, various local councils and their officers. Members of the Royal Engineers and their Chaplain represented the Military from the Gibraltar Barracks. The Royal Air Force association along with the Royal British Legion attended with their flag bearers, also representatives from the management of Blackbushe Airport
Many relatives attended from eight of the victims’ families.
The service was conducted by the Chaplain and the archivist. During the service a minute’s silence was held followed by the last post.
It was for me a great privilege to meet all the relatives. One, a mother of one of the victims along with Harold Bamberg unveiled the memorial plaque.
To my surprise BBC South filmed the event. As the result of seeing this program, after the event at Blackbushe Airport, the son of one of the victims called me at home to say that he was sadden by not having been able to attend. We had been unable to locate him. He had not known where his father’s grave was located. We were able to inform him where it was much to his delight. It was the final confirmation that it had been right to have a memorial event.
There are a lot of people to thank for all their help. I was very appreciative of it.
One group that should be mentioned by name is the Management of Blackbushe Airport. Their support and willingness to allow a plaque to be placed on the control tower and for their help on the day was again very much appreciated.
As I said on the day these victims ‘will be remembered and will not be forgotten’. I would not give up on searching for the remaining families.
Post script: As a result of a phone call from a man in Weymouth a brother and a fiancé of one of the victims has now been found. They have expressed their thanks for our efforts. Photo’s have been sent to them.
Pictures from the Event