From NED GRANT in Axbridge Daily Mirror 11th April 1973
They were the villages of lost mothers last night four little communities in the Somerset countryside, numbed by the horror of a miles away. tragedy 500 miles away
More than 100 of their women were aboard a day-trip plane that plunged into a Swiss mountainside in a blizzard. Rescuers reported that 110 of the 145 aboard were dead. the men of the villages were dead. And last night, the men of the villages waited, silent and grim, for news of their loved ones. From the pretty village of Abridge, sixty-three mem- bers of the local Ladies’ Guild had left happily yesterday morning for a day’s shopping and sightseeing in Basle.
News of the crash brought husbands out into the village square, wondering who had lost a wife or daughter and whose children were without mothers. Invicta, the owners of the crashed Vanguard, said relatives would be told before the victims were named. But in Abridge, the anguish was deepened by news that no list was likely to be issued until today.
One man said: We really feel now that we want to know the worst.” Many of the waiting men had been up at 6.30 yesterday to wave goodbye to the party. The outing had been planned for months. Grandparents and friends were organised to look after the children, meals were prepared the day before.
Then just after lunch, came the news that ripped the heart out of Axbridge. Many of those wives, mothers, friends and neighbours who had driven Off a few hours earlier would never return, Postmaster Brian Helps summed up the village’s feelings. It is a terrible tragedy,” he said. of them are young mothers.
Everyone is terribly shocked and numbed. We are all involved, everyone has lost someone dear to them, either a relative or friend.’ During the afternoon, people gathered in each other’s cottages seeking comfort. The rector of Axbridge, the Rev Anthony Martin, kept a vigil by his telephone, waiting for word from Switzerland. He said: I am getting as much news as I can and then going around the village passing it on. In the other grief-stricken villages, the mood was the same.
Forty people from a social club in Congresbury were abord the Vanguard. There were members of a women’s twenty skittles club from Congresbury and nearby Wrington.
Five members of a mothers’ group at Cheddar were on the trip, with two children, aged eleven and twelve, from their village. And a party of twenty staff from Bristol airport were also aboard, Vicar’s wife, Mrs. Jean Denman, should have been on the trip with the five Cheddar mothers. But because the date of the flight had been changed, she could not. She said: I got the tickets for the club and I would have gone with them.
In Congresbury, Mrs. Catherine Regan said: The women on the trip were all ages I know a number of them had been saving hard for this trip for quite a long time, It’s very distressing.
Anxious husbands sat bleary-eyed at Bristol airport last night hoping for news of the crash survivors. for the Many of the men had been baby-sitters for mothers’ day out. Mr Rodney Payne, of Cheddar, carried his 20-month-old son in his arms, waiting for news of the boy’s mother. Civil servant Philp Batt, of Congresburv. was waiting for news of eight of his relatives- including his father, mother and grandmother, He said: Almost my entire family were on the Aircraft and so far, I have had no news, Invicta said relatives or next-of-kin would be flown to Base today.
The village school at Axbridge-just closed for the Easter holidays-may be reopened to look after children while their fathers fly out. Last night, the men of Abridge crowded into the village’s twelfth-century church to hear the rector give them words of comfort, sympathy and pray.