The events of 10th April 1973 had their roots in the development of charter flights in the 60’s and early 70’s. Bristol airport, known as Luslgate had been developing its growing charter business following the runway extension. For many local people, the airport would give them their very first trip to a foreign country. Into this growing market came a Bristol company who started organising trips to Holland, Spain, and then Switzerland, which was to prove fatal. The first trip in 1973, was a few days in Spain in January. This was followed in April by a day trip to Basel in Switzerland.
The travel company that arranged these trips had got into difficulty and owed Invicta Airways a lot of money. Invicta prepared to take over the travel company but then Invicta suspended their operations. They also were in financial trouble. Eventually they were taken over by European Ferries, a big ferry and port company, so the trip was on again. They quickly re-arranged the flying programme and a date was arranged.
Tickets for this trip were arranged by a Yatton travel agent Mendip Travel. Around 47 passengers came from the Congresbury, Wrington, Redhill and surrounding area. The trip was organised by Mrs Beryl Batt, who lived in Stonewell Drive, Congresbury. She was on the trip with her husband Ray. One of the groups from Congresbury was the Memorial Club ladies’ skittles team. They had arranged trips before, the Tulip fields in Holland and long weekend in Benidorm. The trip to Switzerland was for a boat trip sightseeing and shopping. 4 members of the team made the trip to Basel.
Dennis and Alieen Gill who lived in Congresbury, were founder members of Memorial Hall Social Club and keen skittle players. Mrs Alieen and her daughter Hazel aged 9, went on the trip. The 3 other members of the team, Mrs Beryl Batt, Mrs Irene Weaver and Mrs Maija-Liisa Gill also went. Beryl Batt went with her husband Ray and Maija-Liisa was joined by her husband Ivor and eldest son John.
As well as the skittle players lots of other Congresbury villages joined them, Mrs Agnes Eleanor Rawlings, Mr William Alfred (Bill) Price, Mrs Dorothy Marie (Dot) Price, Mrs Myrtle Florence Reakes, Mrs Sylvia Jean, Miss Ellen Mary Roynon, Mrs Linda Jane, Mrs Evelyn Maud Davis, Mrs Grace Louisa Searle, Mrs Rose Evelyn Clark, Mrs Florence Durman and Mrs Kathleen Mary Attwell.
In the Photograph – Mrs Beryl Batt (left) Mrs Alieen Gill (8th from left) Mrs Irene Weaver (10th from left) Mrs Maija-Liisa Gill (2nd Right).
Apart from Husband’s Ivor Gill, Ray Batt and Bill Price and the young people on the trip, Cousins Hazel and John Gill aged 9 and 21, Ellen Roynon aged 11 and Linda Davis aged 20, the passengers where all wives of local men and mothers to many children in the village.
On the morning of the 10th April the villages set out by coach to head to Luslgate to start the journey to Basel. Coach owner Mr. Oliver Lyons, of Blagdon, took the of the passengers to Bristol’s Lulsgate airport. He remembered as he drove around Abridge, Cheddar, Wrington, and Congresbury collecting passengers, “I had three times a coach full of happy, laughing people. I know nearly all of them personally.” He was due to returned for them at 11.30 p.m after the flight home.
The Flight to Switzerland
The aircraft for the flight was a Vickers Vangard 952 operated by Invicta International Airlines. The flight left Bristol for an uneventful flight to, EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg International Airport in Basel, Saint-Louis, France. The airport was located just miles from the border of Switzerland and Germany. It was daylight at the time the flight arrived at Basel, so visual references could be easily obtained by the crew.
However, a heavy snowstorm was reported in Basel, thus reducing the visibility. While approaching Basel,
Flight 435 passed two approach navigation beacons to aid the crew in landing at the airport. However, the aircraft overshot and Captain Dorman initiated a go-around.
At 09:08 UTC, Flight 435 was manoeuvring for its second approach. Basel Control Tower received a telephone call that 435 had flown above the Binningen Observatory (approximately eight kilometers southeast of the airport) at a height of around fifty meters while heading south; he urged the crews of Flight 435 to climb immediately. During the approach, several passengers briefly saw several houses on the ground.
At 09:13 UTC, the aircraft brushed the wooded area of a range of hills in Jura and crashed in the hamlet of Herrenmatt, in the parish of Hochwald. The aircraft somersaulted and exploded, several parts of it catching fire.
On hitting the ground, the aircraft snapped into several sections. While the front parts were “destroyed into bits”, a section of the tail was left substantially intact. This was the area where most survivors were found. Everyone seated in the front part of the aircraft which included the passengers from Congresbury had been killed.
In the morning the travel company got a call, Invicta’s operations manager was on the telephone “OP’s come down, don’t worry, she’s a tough old bird”. He was referring to G-AXOP, the airplane carrying a full load of 139 passengers and 6 crew to Basel that day, including their family. When the staff got to work there was already a group of reporters and cameramen outside the company’s office. All they could do all day and night was to answer the constantly-ringing telephones. After initial optimism about numbers of survivors, as the day drew on, the picture slowly became terribly clear – the majority of the passengers and crew had been killed. As far as who, precisely, had survived, they simply didn’t know yet and so they could give little information to distraught friends and relatives of passengers. The press pestered, wanting details of survivors and people to interview. The telex machine chattered away all morning with questions.
Information about the crash in Switzerland was slow to come in. This was the age before faxes, and most of the news came via the radio, television and the local papers. The Bristol Evening Post was printed twice a day with the first coming out at lunch time. Their first report was that there was “some unspecified survivors” based on information provided by the Swiss news agency who reported there were no casualties.
The later editions of the paper started to lay out the whole story, by now it was clear that many people had died. The news was filtering through. It was cruel to the families waiting as some names were given as survivors only later to be told these reports were wrong. Only on the 13th April did the final list emerge. As officials read out a list of survivors it was clear the scale of the crash. It also became clear that all the passengers from the village of Congresbury had not survived. The press reported how Dennis Gill who had believed his wife Aileen had survived only now to learn she had died along with his daughter Hazel.
There was now a mass of organisational work to be done, to assist those that had been affected by the crash. An operations centre was set up in Axbridge and travel company sent people there to help. There was much work to be done, the survivors had to be flown home, undertakers had to be commissioned to organise the repatriation of the remains and relatives needed to visit survivors still in Switzerland.
The RAF flew the majority of the survivors who were prepared to fly back to Lyneham, where their PR Officer organised a press conference. The remainder of the survivors made their way back overland.
The day after the disaster many relativities flew out to Switzerland to identify the dead and their families. In the local school 104 coffins lay in four rows with each bearing a simple bunch of pink and white carnations. Under a large figure of Christ, a psalm book lay open at the 27th Palam. Where victims had been identified, families had been given the number of the coffin. Only a few hundred yards away sounds joy could be heard at the Dornach Hospital as the survivors of the crash reunited with family.
In the local press people commented...
A Churchill farmer’s wife, Mrs Marion Warren, sat in worry by the radio as the news of the crash started to come in.
Three weeks before she had had a nightmare, she said she had seen the scene. “I saw it all as clear as day – the snow, the woods and the bodies of my friends all laid out” She was due to go on the trip with her friends from Congresbury. “It nagged at me so much that when my little girl Sarah wasn’t well I decided not to go” She said. “As the news came over the radio I realised I had dreamed the crash exactly as it happened. I felt cold all day despite sitting in front of a big fire, but this involves all my friends. I feel terrible and so upset”.
When she decided not to go on the trip she sold her ticket to her friend Aileen Gill who bought it for her daughter Hazel, both died in the crash.
A 76 year old passenger on the plane was Mrs Florence Durman from the Ship and Castle Inn. Her Daughter runs the inn. In tears Mrs Davis said last night “My mother went on these trips, she just loved the adventure”.
Mrs Connie Wookey should also have gone but changed her mind. She said last night “I had five cousins on the plane, don’t ask me why but I had a funny feeling about it. There was a lot of confusion over the journey, so much so I decided not to go”.
Services held in Congresbury
On April the 12th the events of previous two days started to be remembered. A service was held in St Andrew’s Church attended by over 700 people. Many crammed into the church on extra chairs and around the porch. The service was relayed to the Refectory and the lawn of the vicarage. The service was conducted by Pred. Alex Cran who had recently retired as the vicar. It was an inter-denominational service with everyone involved.
It was now clear that everyone from Congresbury and the other local villages had all perished. Across the area it was reported that 48 children has lost their mother or both parents. Notices of sympathy were received from the Queen, Prime Minster, the Government in Switzerland including cards from many people across the country who just wanted to make their sorrow at the events known to the families.
RELATIVES AND FRIENDS of those who died in the Swiss air disaster attended funeral services in many churches over the past week. People filled churches at Congresbury, Wrington, Redhill and Kingston Seymour. Further afield there were similar stories of hundreds of people paying their last respects to the dead. Details of the funerals were published in the local paper.
Across Congresbury, Redhill, Wrington, Winsombe, Axbridge and Cheddar funeral services started to be held as well as further afield. In Congresbury the services started to be held. These were for the members Batt family followed by the Gill family, the Roynon family, the Rawlins family and Weaver and Durman families. Funerals also took place in Congresbury for The Atwell, Searle, Reakes and Prices families. The funerals were all reported extensively and a report listed all the family members, family mourners as well as local people who represented local clubs, business and associations. Before the funerals members of the local Venture Scouts and Royal British Legion stood guard and acted as pall bearers to some of the victims. Many of the locals are buried in Congresbury and other local churches.
A joint funeral service was held at St. Andrews church, Congresbury, on Wednesday last week for Miss May Atwell of The Plough Inn. Congresbury, and Mrs. Grace Louisa Searle of 11 Yew Tree Park. Congresbury. They were close friends. Friends and relatives packed the church for the service, conducted by the Rev. Alex Cran, recently retired vicar of Congresbury.
Afterwards the bodies of Miss Atwell and Mrs. Searle were buried in the churchyard. Miss May Atwell (66) lived for almost all her life at The Plough Inn. Her father Reginald was licensee there for 52 years until handing over to his son Jack. Miss Atwell served behind the bar for nearly 50 years and will be fondly remembered by the regulars. She made many friends in the village and for many people The Plough was ‘her pub’. Outside the Inn her main interest was in growing flowers. Principal mourners: Mr. and Mrs. Reg Atwell (brother and sister-in- law), Mr. and Mrs. L. H. Robbins (sister and brother-in-law), Mr. Jack Atwell (brother), Mrs. Jill Hill (niece), Mrs. S. Gill (close friend) and cousins from Chippenham, Congresbury and Clevedon.
Mrs. Grace Searle (58) came to Congresbury from Bedminster with her husband, Leslie, SIX years ago. Born in Bristol, she was married in Bedminster in 1941. For the past 14 years, Mr. Searle has been sub- postmaster at Inns Court Green, Knowle and Mrs. Searle worked there with him. Their main interest was in the activities of the Loyal Order of Moose. For the past year, Mr. Searle was Governor of the Meyrick John Lodge in Bristol and Mrs. Searle was chairman of the Ladies Circle. Mrs. Searle is survived by her husband and a married daughter, Mrs. Valerie Shepstone. Among the mourners were the head postmaster of Bristol. Mr. Walter Ledger and his personal assistant, representatives from the L.0.0.M. and many friends. Family mourners: Mr. Leslie Searle (husband), Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Bacon, Mr. and Mrs. David Bacon (brothers and sisters- in-law), Mrs, Amelia Dursley (aunt) and cousins from South Wales.
Congresbury undertaker Mr. William Alfred Charles Price and his wife, Mrs, Dorothy Maria Price, both died in the Swiss air crash. A joint funeral service was held for them at St. Andrew’s Church, Congresbury, on Friday afternoon last week. Mr. and Mrs. Price were both well-known in the village and will be greatly missed. They were married at Cleeve 25 years ago and after many years at Church Farm, Congresbury lived for the past 8 years at 21 Stonewell Drive, Congresbury. Mr. Price (63), was born in Bristol but moved to Sunnymead, Congresbury, as a small child and spent the rest of his life in the village. As a young man he took over the local undertakers’ business. A Freemason, he was well-known in many local organisations. He was a member of Congresbury Social Club and of the local branch of the National Association of Funeral Directors, of which he was a former area president. Mrs. Dot Price (61) was born in South-Wales and met Mr. Price while working in Cleeve. At Congresbury she became actively involved in several local organisations including the Social Club and a bingo club. She will be remembered too for the amount of help she willingly gave to others in the village, especially old people.
The funeral of Mrs. Myrtle Reakes (53) of 54 Southlands Way, Congresbury, was at St. Andrew’s Parish Church, Congresbury last Friday and the Rev. Bailey officiated, assisted by the Rev. Alex Cran. Mrs. Reakes, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Reg Fisher, lived in Congresbury all her life, and worked at Bristol Stores for about 17 years. She played for the Bell Inn Ladies’ Skittles team for about seven years. She married Robert Edward Reakes, 27 years ago at the parish church and is survived by him, three children and one grandchild. Family mourners at the service were: Mr. Robert Reakes (widower), Mr. and Mrs. Brian Reakes (son and daughter-in-law). Mr. Julian Reakes (son), Miss Patricia Reakes (daughter), Mr. E. Payne (uncle), Mr. F. Payne (uncle), Mr. and Mis. H. Willis (uncle and aunt). Mr. and Mrs. R. Noye (cousins), Mr. and Mrs. H. Osmond (uncle and aunt). Mr. and Mrs. C. Franklin (uncle and aunt). Mrs. P. Dyer (sister-in- law) and D Dyer (nephew), Mr. and Mrs. T. Payne, Mrs. N. Philips and Mr. and Mrs. R. Philips. Funeral arrangements were by Keith Britton, Yatton.
The first of three air disaster funeral services at Congresbury parish church on Thursday of last week was that of Mr. and Mrs. Ray Batt of 35 Stonewell Drive, Congresbury. It was conducted by the Rev. Reginald Bailey assisted by the Rev, Prebendary Alex Cran. Mr. Raymond Noel Batt was born in Bristol 49 years ago and, during the last war, served with the Manchester Regiment in Germany, France and Belgium. He was a bank officer with the Co-operative Society Bank in Broad Quay, Bristol. He and his family came to live in Congresbury seven years ago, and quickly entered into the social life of the village. Mr. Batt was treasurer of the local War Memorial Hall and. with his wife, was often seen helping behind the bar at the Hall Social Club.
Mrs. Batt, popularly known as Beryl, was aged 41 and was also a native of Bristol. She married Mr. Batt at the church of St. Philip and St. Jacob and lived for some years at Brislington. Mrs. Batt was employed as a clerk/typist at Bristol Airport and it was she who made the arrangements for the Congresbury party to take the trip to Basle. Her leisure hours, as were her husband’s, were spent in making the Hall Social Club the happy, friendly place it is known to be. She was captain of the club’s ladies’ skittles team. Mr. and Mrs. Batt leave three children, Philip (21), Susan (19) and Gillian (17). Susan 19 to be married next week to Mr. Peter Cooke of Claverham.
The funeral service last week conducted by the Rev. Reginald Bailey and the Rev. Prebendary Alex Cran, was followed by cremation at Weston-super-Mare. The ashes were interred on Saturday at Congresbury.
Principal mourners: Mr. Philip Batt (son), the Misses. Susan and Gillian Batt (daughters), Mrs. C. Batt (mother of Mr. Raymond Batt), Mr. and Mrs. W. Batt (brother and sister-in-law), Mr. K. Batt (brother), Mr. and Mrs. J. Batt, Mr. and Mrs. D. Batt (brothers and sisters-in-law). Mr. and Mrs. C. Iles (brother-in- law and sister), Mr. J. Newell (brother-in-law). Also at the church were: Messrs J. C. Morse, G. Pope, R. Cooke, E. Waring, G. Riddiford, H. Westcott (Chairman Congresbury Social Club), G. Mills (rep. Ladies Skittles team), H. Dibble (branch chairman Royal British Legion, Congresbury), J. Churchill (deputy standard bearer). K. Goulding, M. J. Pritchard (rep. Mrs. Pritchard). Group Scout Leader of Cleeve, Claverham and Yatton Scout Group), L. Parker (District Skittles League). Mr. and Mrs. I. Cooke, Mr. and Mis. J. R. Simmonds, (rep. the South West Electricity Board) Mr. and Mrs. M. Lewis, Thirty members of The House of Faith, representatives of the staff of Bristol Airport. Mesdames H. Westcott (rep. Mr. and Mrs. Weaver from Bahrain), B. Woodgate, V. Buck, D. Corbett (rep. Ladies Skittles League, Weston. super-Mare), Miss M. Hallet, R- Cooke (Cleeve). Bearers (Management and committee members of Congresbury Memorial Hall Social Club) Messrs T. Taylor, G. R. Gill, R. Buxton. M. Thatcher, L. Buxton, J. Woodward. Second bearers: R. Fisher, J. Havey Fowler, J. (senior), G. Gosling, A. Y. Tuck field, F. Crook. The funeral arrangements were by Cooksleys of Weston-super-Mare.
The funeral services for the five members of the Gill family were at Congresbury parish church on Thursday of last week and conducted by the Rev. Preb. A. S. Cran. They were Mr. Ivor James Gill (51), his wife Maija-Luisa (48), and their elder son, John (21), Mrs. Aileen Gill (46). wife of Mr. Ivor Gill’s brother, Dennis, and her youngest daughter. Hazel, aged nine. Mr, Ivor Gill, Congresbury born, was the secretary of the local branch of the Royal British Legion and holder of one of the Legion’s highest awards for devoted service, the Gold Badge. He was also a Master of the Past Grand of Oddfellows. Manchester Unity He served in the R.A.F. during the last war and, while in Germany, met Finnish nurse, Maija-Luisa Putaala. They were married at Congresbury parish church nearly 26 years ago.
Until a serious illness kept him in hospital for two years and out of work for three years, Mr. Gill was a sales representative with a Bristol firm of motor distributors. Having made a miraculous recovery, he helped his brother Dennis to run the family carrier business and was caretaker of the village school. He lived with his family at ‘The Horts’, on Brinsea Road. His wife, popularly known to her many friends as Marie, was born at Oulu in northern Finland. She spoke several languages. A member of the War Memorial Hall Social Club committee, she played for the ladies skittles team. Until a recent serious illness she was employed at a local grocery store. Their son, John, an engineer with a Bristol firm of motor distributors, enjoyed an outdoor life and was a zealous member of the Yeo Valley Trogloxenes Venture Scouts. A few years ago he was awarded the Scouts’ Silver Cross for Gallantry, after helping in a rescue from a Congresbury shop demolished by a gas explosion, killing Mrs. J. Wareing.
Mrs. Aileen Gill, whose maiden name was Wood, was a native of Claverham. She worked for many years at the Court de Wyck Tannery and, in 1950, at Yatton, married Mr. Dennis Gill. They had three daughiers, Linda, Jacqueline and Hazel, and lived at “Walnut Cottage’, Brinsea Road.
Mrs. Gill was also a member of the Memorial Hall Ladies’ skittles team and could be seen on most evenings with her husband, serving behind the bar at the Social Club. Their daughter, Hazel, was a pupil at the village school and enjoyed ballet and tap dancing.
Principal mourners were Mr. Dennis Gill, the Misses L. and J. Gill, Mr. and Mrs. R. Pitts, Mr. David Gill, Mr. and Mrs. F. M. Gill, Mr. and Mrs, D. Wood, Mr. and Mrs. A. Watts, Mrs. R. W. Gill. The Misses R. and P. Watts, Mr. D. Watts. Mr. and Mrs. S. A. Gill, Mr. and Mrs. B. Wookey, Mr. and Mrs. P. Vowles, Mrs. R. Symms. Mr. and Mrs. J. Gill, Mrs. R. Keedwell, Mrs. C. Reeves, Mr. R. Gill, Mr. and Mis Hallett, Mr. and, Mrs. Chamberlain, Miss M. Morris. Mrs. Williams, Mr. and Mrs. L. Taylor, Mr. and Mrs. J. Clarke, Mr. and Mrs. R. Barnes, Mr. Betty, Mr. A. Dickenson, Mrs. Pitts, Mr. D. Wookey, Mr. and Mis. G. Sparey, Mrs. N. Williams, Mrs. M. Bell. Mrs. M. Jones, Mr. and Mrs. Stott, Mrs. A. Nobes, Mr. D. H. Taylor, Mrs. M. Dumville, Audrey Wash-brook.
Before the service, a two-hour vigil was mounted outside the Vicarage (where lay the coffins) by standard bearers from the local branch of the Royal British Legion (H. Dibble, J. Churchill and J. Warren) and the Venture Scouls (R. Leveston, P. Morley, R. Gale and C. Bearman). Friends, relatives and representatives of many local organisations filled the church for the service. It was followed by cremation at Weston-super-Mare for all five members of the family. Their ashes were later interred at churchyard. Congresbury Members of Congresbury Social Club and the Memorial Hall Management Committee formed three parties of bearers. These were Messrs. T. Taylor, R. Gill, R. Buxton, M. Thatcher, L. Buxion and J. Wood-ward; R. Fowler, J. Fisher, J. Harvey (snr.), G. Gosling, A. Tuckfield and F. Crook; M. Regan, J. Gurney, G. Weir, C. King. C. Bosley and R. Johns.
The other bearers were (Venture Scouts) Messrs. M. Bell (leader), C. Malen (assistant leader), R. Mounsden (assistant leader), N. Hewlett, I. Colquhoun and G. Kinsman; and (Congresbury branch, Royal British Legion) Messrs. A. Elvidge, H. Dibble (chairman), J. Warren (vice- chairman), J. Churchill (deputy standard bearer), C. Sparey, R. Atlay, Major E. P. King, Capt. Hugh Gardner, W Payne, Games and Tucker. Hughes. – Funeral arrangements were by Cooksleys of Weston-super-Mare.
The funeral of the family of Mr. Colin Roynon, of Venus Street. Congresbury, was at Congresbury parish church on Thursday of last week. Mr. Roynon lost his wife. two daughters (Mrs. Linda Davis and Miss Ellen Roynon) and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Maud Davis.
Mrs. Jean Roynon (43) died six days short of her 24th wedding anniversary. Born in Yatton, she was very much a home lover, taking little part in the social life of the community, but she and her mother were until about a year ago, running a catering business and were frequently seen busy at local weddings, dinners and socials. Mrs. Roynon also had a part-time job at the G.P.O. Yatton exchange. Her daughter, Mrs. Linda Davis (20) worked for the grocery firm of Browning and Watts’ of Churchill, and was fond of motoring. Miss Ellen Roynon (11) was a pupil at Congresbury Junior School and a member of the local Girl Guides She had a great love for the outdoor life. Mrs. Maud Davis was born in Yatton 71 years ago and her maiden name was Payne. She was married to Mr. Cecil Edward Davis (now deceased) at Yatton in the late 1920’s. For a time the couple lived in Yatton High Street, moving to more than 30 years ago to Congresbury. The service was conducted by the Rev. Reginald Bailey, assisted by the Rev. Preb. Alex Cran and the Methodist minister, the Rev. John Ashplant, Principal mourners were Mr. C. Roynon, Mr. and Mrs. B. Jarman, Mr. K. Davis, Mrs. E. Edwards (also rep. Mis. J. C Roynon), Mr. J. Roynon, Mr. and Mis. P. Roynon. Mr. and Mrs. T. Roynon (rep. Mr. B. Stephens), Mr. and Mrs. J. Brafield, Mr. and Mrs. J. Pearce, Mr. and Mrs. R. Roynon, Mr. and Mrs. A. Cook, the Rev. and Mrs. M. Atkins (rep. Mr. and Mrs. J. Edwards), Mrs. R. Young, Mr. and Mrs. J. Graham, Miss E. Roynon, Miss J. Roynon. Mr. A. Walshaw (rep. Mrs. Walshaw)
Mr. and Mrs. F. Baker, Mr. and Mrs. S. and Payne, Mrs. O. Neath, Mr. Mrs. J. Dowding, Mrs. P. Godfrey, Mr. H. Payne, Mr. and Mrs. R. New, Mr. and Mrs. G. Neath, Mr. and Mrs. C. Neath, Mr. and Mrs. A. Neath, Mr. and Mrs. D. Ruddock. Mr. T. Neath and Linda, Mrs. G. Neath and Michael, Miss S. Dowding, Mr. and Mrs. A. Davis, Mr. and Mrs. D. Cogan, Mrs. B. Ewers, Miss C. Ewers, Mr. and Mrs. R. Collins, Miss S. Payne and Allan, Mr. and Mrs. B. Tyke.
Messis. J. Franks, G. King, P. Fish. J. Curry, J. Gurney, M. Thatcher. J. Woodward, Miss E. Travis, Mr. and Mrs. N. Pardy, Mr. D. Bendall. Also at the church were: Messrs C. Gabell, P. Baldwin. S. G. Edwards, W. Payne. N. Pardy, A. Walshaw (Bath), T. Payne, R. Pardoe, W. Curry, C. Collard, T. L. Wisdom. Rev. John Ashplant (Methodist), Place, M. Phippen (chairman Congresbury Parish Council), A. V. T. Dobbins (rep. general manager Post Office Telephones) and J. G. Walter. Mr. and Mrs. R. Millard, Mr. and Mrs, H. Wilson, Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Bennett, Mr. and Mrs M Lewis, Mr. and Mrs. Ford, Mr. and Mrs. R. Green and Mr. and Mrs. E. Green. Mesdames, J. Hardwich, R. Morgan, P. Place, (rep. 1st Congresbury Guides and Wrington Vale- District), C. Fear, L. T. Curry, B Tucker and M. Phippen. Misses D Jarman and J. Watts (rep. 1st Congresbury Guides and Wrington Vale District), L. Curry, I. Tucker and H. Rawlings. The bearers were members of Congresbury Social Club. Funeral arrangements were by Mr. Keith Britton of Yatton.
Mrs. Agnes Eleanor ‘Ellen’ Rawlins (59) was an active member of the Bright Hour at Congresbury the Womens’ section of the Royal British Legion and of the Over 60’s Club. In her neat home at 11 Chestnut Close could be seen examples of her excellent sea-shell decorated pottery. She was also an accomplished dressmaker. – Her first husband was killed during the war, leaving her with two children a boy and a girl. For many years she worked in Frenchay Hospital. Fourteen years ago she married Congresbury widower. Mr. Jack Rawlins at Weston Register Office. The funeral service for Mrs. Rawlins was at Congresbury parish church on Friday last and was conducted by the Rev. Prebendary Alex Cran assisted by the Rev, Reginald Bailey. Cremation followed at Weston-super-Mare. Principal mourners, Mr. Jack Rawlins (husband), Mrs. Arthur Barnett (stepdaughter), Mr. Michael Barrett, Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Marshall, Miss Mary Clark, Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Brown, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Rawlins, Mr. Ian Rawlins, Mr. Carl Browning.
There were no flowers by request. Funeral arrangements were by Mr Arthur Davey of Nailsea.
Congresbury Playing Fields will miss the services of Mrs. Irene Weaver who, with her husband, Bill, spent many hours serving behind the bar at the pavilion. Mrs. Weaver (48) maiden name Irene Christopher, was a native of Boston in Lincolnshire. She married Congresbury man, Mr. Bill Weaver nearly 27 years ago and they first lived in Brinsea Road before moving to Southlands and later to Rhodeswood” in St. Pauls Causeway. They had two daughters, Christine now married and living in Australia, and Pamela (Mrs. M. Brean).
An enthusiastic member of the Memorial Hall Ladies skittles team. she also enjoyed gardening. The funeral service on Tuesday last was conducted at Congresbury parish church by the Rev. Prebendary Alex Cran assisted by the Rev. Reginald Bailey. Cremation followed at Weston-super-Mare. Principal mourners were Mr. W. J. Weaver (husband), Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm Brean (son-in-law and daughter), Mr. and Mrs. Joe Christopher (brother and sister-in-law). Mesdames Hilda Sykes. Kathleen Grey and Jean and Thompson (sisters). Mr. Mrs. Bob Blackburn (brother-in-law and sister). Mr. and Mrs. Jack Weaver (brother-in-law and sister-in-law), Lilian and Georgie Waite. Theta, Maurice and Beatrice (cousins). The funeral arrangements were by Mr. Andrew Sheppy of Congresbury.
The funeral service for Mrs Florence ‘Bo’ Durman of the Ship and Castle Inn at Congresbury was at Pitminster parish church in Devon on Thursday of last week.
View Point, published in June, 1973
In June 1973 the local magazine, View Point published a series of stories and information including the address from the memorial service in Dornach.
The sad tragedy of Hochwald showed how united our people of Congresbury are in the face of trouble and disaster. A party of twenty from some of the most well known Congresbury families set out for a day among the mountains and lakes of Switzerland. None returned alive. The whole village was hushed by the news of the disaster and we all did our best to help those who had so suddenly lost loved ones.
Neighbours and friends rallied round to give comfort and support, and later when the time of burial or cremation came again they were there, quietly giving such solace and comfort as was possible. We were glad to have the support and help of Preb. Cran, and we were grateful to the Choir and to Mr. Ford the Organist for their help with the services; also to the Rev. Ashplant who was with us when his other duties permitted.
We were heartened by the many messages received from far and wide, among them one from our Bishop and another from the Rev. Gordon Millier, while the Rev. Shilton Evans came to visit those of his old friends who had suffered loss. Flowers from the Social Club and other organisations beautified our lovely Church for the funeral services and these, taking place in Holy Week, were carried forward into our thoughts at Easter with its promise of new life beyond the grave.
Congresbury will not easily forget April 10th. We will remember the initial shock of the news followed by the numbness which left us inarticulate. We will remember how compulsive was the desire to do something, to identify ourselves or the village organisations with the plight of the bereaved. So we will remember the lightning response of the Church and P. C.C. of the Parish Council, the Legion, the Sports Club and many others. Did we overreact? Maybe: yet we feel sure that those upon whom disaster fell will have recognised the genuineness of sympathy and a real desire to be of service. They would not, we feel sure, have had it otherwise. Above all we will remember how naturally the Church became the focal point in the days that followed. If Congresbury was not defeated by tragedy it was largely because Basle brought the village to its knees.
So we remember how the village, led by the P. C.C. and Parish Council, flocked to the Church that Wednesday evening for the simple service of intercession and dedication. Of how the Vicar of Yatton with his council were there to add their prayers to ours.
And we will remember the funeral services which seemed to fill Holy Week and the feeling, so pervasive, that though the shadow of Good Friday lay across those service yet the message of Easter had the final word. We will remember the courage of the bereaved, many of whom attended the services of others; the abundant flowers. Above all we will remember the Memorial Service on Sunday evening; the packed Church overflowing to Refectory, lawns and Churchyard; Prebendary Cran’s memorable address; the Bishop’s final blessing for the departed. Here, then, was a village which cared, a neighbourly village, whose wreath lay on the grave of the pilot at Coventry, a village outward-looking yet Church- centred. We turned back to the First-ever number of this magazine, written 25 years ago, and there was the new vicar’s “declaration of intent”, wonderfully realised today…
“We have to make our Church a family, in face and deed, by binding ourselves in fellowship with our Lord… We have to express our fellowship in Christ towards the village, by helping and serving every cause whenever we can…’
Thus do we look back. What of the future? As we said in April, and in another context, “Life goes on”, but on what basis? On what sort of faith and on what foundation? It seems to the writer that disaster sharpens rather than blunts one’s spiritual faculties. The problem of suffering will be with us for as long as the sun rises in the east, and provides no solution other than through the activity of faith. Somehow we have to learn to identify the suffering of man with the incalculably larger issues of the Cross. Above all to see in pain and suffering an opportunity of sharing in the sacrificial yet creative courage of Calvary.
There is no short answer to the questionings of the bereaved. Even the Church has no neat and tidy doctrine. So one can do no better than to quote from a message of sympathy from a friend who referred to this disaster as “the ultimate evil” but went on to say, “there is nothing one can do but to hold on”. And this we do.
THE MEMORIAL SERVICE AT DORNACH
We print below an extract from the Address given in Dornach by Otto Streckeisen, the local minister of the Evangelical Reform Church, which speaks eloquently of a shared sorrow in this tragedy.
“We are spent, paralysed, and our nerves are on edge. Within us is confusion and deep sadness. Do not therefore expect well chosen words or neatly turned phrases. What you are hearing in this Church are the words of people who are tired and shaken. But perhaps our very weariness and shock are precisely what links us with you, dear mourners of England. You too have gone through fear and sleepless nights. You too have been tortured in the past 48 hours by uncertainty and have had your spirits raised and dashed by conflicting reports. You too are worn out and exhausted. Your nerves have also been under heavy strain. You have all suffered great pain. Do not feel ashamed of your tears. We weep with you. It seems to me that something else also links you, dear mourners, with us here in Switzerland across the frontiers and the language barrier. What you have gone through will not leave us untouched.
When this tragedy is over we shall not be the same people as before. We shall ask questions which we have not asked before. May I say how it affects me. I feel myself, with you, reduced to the bare essentials. Much of what is otherwise important to me I have shed in these 48 hours. In these last days and nights we have learned something. Overnight we have matured. We have learned better than before to distinguish between the important and the unimportant; between what is transitory and what endures. Dear mourners, what endures, what always endures as long as there are people, is Love, Humanity. That we help one another in every way. It seems to me that what enables us now to carry on, what despite all makes our lives still worthwhile, is Love. We sorely need each other at the present time.
Dear mourners from England; dear fellow-mourners from Switzerland, forget all these things that divide you from your fellow men. Break out from the narrow confines of your own cares and problems. Share the affections of others. Mourn together. Dry not just your own tears but those of each other. Do this, and across the wreckage of this tragedy a wide horizon will open, namely, the great hope that unites us all whatever our creed or conviction. The hope that everything, our wishes and our disappointments, our living and our dying, are in good stewardship in that vast invisible reality which we know by different names, but which is a source of supreme confidence, even at death’s door”.Otto Streckeisen
IN MEMORIAM – HOCHWALD. APRIL 10th, 1973
Kathleen Mary Atwell • Raymond Noel Batt • Beryl Gertrude Batt • Rose Evelyn Clark • Florence Durman • Ivor James Gill • Maija Luisa Gill • John Michael Gill • Aileen Gladys Gill • Hazel Mary Gill • William Alfred Charles Price • Dorothy Maria Price• Agnes Eleanor Rawlings • Myrtle Florence Reakes • Sylvia Jean Roynon • Ellen Mary Roynon • Linda Jane Davis • Evelyn Maud Davis • Grace Louise Searle • Irene Weaver
All Somerset stands silent, bowed in grief For sons and daughters lost in Switzerland: The people gather in sad disbelief, While sympathy and help go hand in hand. See where small Dornach mourns our friends and kin Whose plane lies shattered ‘neath the driven snow, Whilst here at home the muffled Church bells ring O’er farms and fields, where wind the Axe and Yeo. “Console the broken heart; restore the weak!” From town and village hall goes forth the cry; And sleepless workers tirelessly seek To comfort children in their misery. When prayers are said, when everything is done To soften anguish, to assuage the pain, The edelweiss still strives toward the sun, And – hope in sorrow, Easter comes again.
1974 – First Anniversary
The Swiss Air Crash was remembered with a new Memorial at Hochwald. To mark the first anniversary a party of 148 close relations, friends and neighbours, and including some survivors, journeyed back to the site of the accident to attend a memorial service and to unveil a plaque and a bronze sculpture on a simple stone stand. The bronze represents a fallen wing that was man’s frailty with the other raised in the hope and promise of the brighter future. Every ten years or so major events have been carried out, especially at the 40th anniversary.
To mark the first anniversary in Congresbury, there was no special service in the parish church, but a prayer of remembrance was be offered during Easter. The Rev. John Simmons, vicar of Congresbury had called together all the bereaved families, but it was their wish that no special service should be held.
The sundial Memorial 1974
“IN MEMORY of the twenty villagers who lost their lives in the Swiss Air Disaster, 10 April 1973.”
So runs the inscription on the plinth of a memorial sundial unveiled on Chestnut Close lawn, Congresbury.
The former vicar of Congresbury, Preb. A. S. Cran, performed the unveiling ceremony and conducted a short service. The ceremony was attended by about 150 people. The sundial was donated by local women’s organisations: Congresbury Ladies’ Skittles Club, Congresbury Young Wives, Congresbury Ladies Legion, the Mothers’ Union, the Women’s Institute, Bright Hour, and the Methodist Ladies’ Friendly Circle.
An unusual feature of the otherwise modern sundial is its antique metal top which was presented by an anonymous donor. The top was clearly marked 1659 and is believed to have come from a Congresbury Garden. Apart from the bereaved families those present included the Rev. J. Simmonds (new vicar of Congresbury), the Rev. J. D. Ashplant, Father Lucien Hunt, of the Friary Church, Clevedon, Councillor John Walter, chairman of Axbridge RDC. Frank Adams, clerk, to Axbridge RDC, as well as her local officials. Sadly, the memorial was stolen a few years later.
Wrington Trees. On the far side of the field Memorial playing field in Wrington are eight Lombardy Poplar trees, a memorial to those villagers killed fifty years ago when a flight from Bristol Airport to Basel crashed in the Swiss Alps, the community and club continue to support their memory. The trees were planted in 1974 and a plaque added to the football club house.
2013 – Forty Years
Congresbury benches. In 2013 benches in Congresbury Church were dedicated on the 40th anniversary in memory of those that lost their lives. A memorial service was held on the Sunday in Congresbury, with the benches installed in the churchyard of St Andrew’s Church.
In Wrington. The local church in Wrington has kneeling cushions with the Swiss flag on them, as well as the names of the seven people from the area who lost their lives.
2023 – Fifty Years
Congresbury. On the 50th anniversary of the disaster the families replaced the plaque with a new larger one that includes the names of their loved ones and create a rose garden as a living lasting tribute to them. Local people and businesses raised the money to pay for the new garden and lasting memorial. Fifty years since the disaster this will probably be the last big remembrance in the village.
There was a service on the anniversary, 10th April at 11:00 am at St Andrews Church Congresbury which included the dedication of memorial garden. Afterwards the families all had the chance to meet up at the Memorial Hall afterwards and remember those that died that day. The service was broadcast live on the Church’s Facebook Page.
The 20 Congresbury Villagers
Aileen Gill of Walnut Cottage Brinsea road helped run the J. Gill & Son carrier family business with her husband Dennis. Together they were founder members of The Memorial Hall Social Club where they were found serving behind the bar most evenings. She was a member of the ladies skittles team. Mum to Linda, Jacqueline and Hazel and Granny to Elsa. Best friends with Ray and Beryl Batt.
Hazel Gill 9 years old attended Congresbury Church of England VC Primary School. She was a really popular little girl, loved ballet and tap. She attended Pat Place school of Dance held in the Memorial Hall and like all little girls of the time loved the Osmond’s pop group.
Ivor Gill lived at The Horts Brinsea Road after contracting meningitis had to leave his job as a sales rep for a Bristol motor distributor as he was in hospital for two years. He helped Dennis in the family business and was Caretaker at the Village School he always had his faithful border collie Susie at his heel. He was a past Grand Master of Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows
Maija-Liisa Gill known as Marie. Ivor’s wife was Finnish and met Ivor who was in the RAF at the end of the war in Germany. She worked at Sullys VG store which is now Broad Street hair salon and belonged to the Memorial Hall Social Club and the ladies skittles team. Mum to Rosemarie John and David
John Gill aged 21, Ivor and Marie’s son had polio as a child and was an apprentice mechanic at Coventry & Jeffs Bristol. He was an assistant leader with the Yeo Valley Trogloxenes Venture Scout unit enjoying caving canoeing abseiling to name few. John was awarded The Scouts Silver Cross a bravery award for rescuing people when the Mace store suffered a gas explosion and was destroyed.
Florence Durman known as Florrie lived in the flat at the side of the Ship and Castle pub now called the Congresbury Arms where her daughter and son in law ran the pub. She loved to travel and joined many outings from the village.
Irene Weaver married to Bill and lived in Paul’s Causeway. Irene was really well known in the Village and spent hours serving behind the bar at the Cricket Pavilion in The Playing Fields. She was a member of the Memorial Hall Ladies Skittles Team. She also loved gardening. Her daughter Christine had emigrated to Australia and daughter Pamela married to Malcolm Brean with a 7 month old son Paul.
William Price known as Bill was our local funeral director. Originally he lived in Church Farm with his wife Dot before they moved to Stonewell Drive. Bill took over the funeral business as a young man. As a Freemason he was well known in local organisations a member of the Memorial Hall social club and former Area President of National Association of Funeral Directors.
Dorothy Price was the wife of Bill Price and known as Dot. Originally they lived in Church Farm then moved to Stonewell Drive. Dot Price was very active in local organisations particularly the Memorial Hall social club and the local bingo club. Dot was known for helping others especially the elderly and adored children especially babies.
Kathleen Atwell known as May from The Plough Inn ran the pub with her brother Jack. She lived all her life at the plough which her father Reginald ran for 52 years before handing to her brother jack. She was good friends with Grace Searle and a joint funeral service was held.
Beryl Batt lived at Stonewell Drive with her husband Ray. She was an active member of The Memorial Hall social club helping to run the bar and in the skittles teams. Beryl was a Clerk at Bristol Airport and organised the day trips to Holland Benidorm and Switzerland she was Captain of the Ladies skittles team. She was the mother of Philip, Susan and Gillian
Ray Batt lived at Stonewell Drive with Beryl when it was a new development and were part of a welcome team as more residents moved in. He was active member of The Memorial Hall social club helping to run the bar and in the skittles teams. Ray was a Bank Officer at Co Op Society Bank and Treasurer of the War Memorial Hall. He was the father of Philip, Susan and Gillian
Grace Searle lived in Yew Tree Park having moved from Bedminster 6 years before. She and her sub postmaster husband Leslie ran the Inns Court Green Post Office, Knowle . She was chairman of The Ladies Circle and her husband was Governor of the Loyal Order of Moose Meyrick John Lodge. They had a married daughter Valerie Shepstone
Evelyn Davis known as Maud lived at Venus Street with Colin and Jean and helped with the catering business.
Agnes Rawlings known as Ellen married to Jack and lived in chestnut close. She was an active Bright Hour of Congresbury British Legion Branch and the Overs 60 Club. Her 1st husband killed in the war leaving her with 2 children. She worked at Frenchay hospital and was a skilled dressmaker also known for her seashell pottery she met and married husband Jack in 1959.
Myrtle Reakes lived in Congresbury all her life. Married to Robert (Bob) she worked at Bristol General Stores known locally as Mrs Newmans in Brinsea Road for over 17years. Bob and Myrtle lived in Southlands, and she was a member of The Bell Ladies Skittle Team and the Memorial Social club. Mum to Julian Brian Patricia and daughter in law Maureen.
Sylvia Roynon known as Jean, wife of Colin. Jean was a home loving person and worked part time at the GPO Yatton and with her mother also ran a catering business and could be seen at local weddings dinners and socials.
Linda Davis nee Roynon 20 worked for grocery firm Browning and Watts of Churchill. Linda loved motoring.
Ellen Roynon 11, Colin and Jean’s youngest daughter attended Congresbury Church of England VC Primary School. She was a Girl Guide and loved the outdoor life.
Rose E Clark of Silver Street