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On Wednesday August 9th 1961 a Cunard Eagle Airways Vickers Viking with three crew members, code named Papa Mike, carrying 34 teenage school boys and two masters from Lanfranc Secondary Modern School in Croydon, crashed just below the summit of Holtaheia, a mountain, near Stavanger in Norway. All 38 men and one woman were killed instantly. It was the worst accident of its kind to have occurred since the war, and at that time, Norway’s worst aviation disaster. Members of the Norwegian Red Cross brought the bodies of the victims down from the mountain top for repatriation.

The whole of Croydon was in shock because almost everyone knew of someone involved in the tragedy. The town went into mourning. News of the disaster was syndicated around the world and was important news for quite a long time – especially, of course, in Croydon and Stavanger. Months later the conclusion of the Norwegian Air Accident Enquiry was that no one thing was to blame for the crash. Nothing could be learnt from the mysterious accident, so everyone had died needlessly. They were wasted lives.

To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Lanfranc-Holtaheia disaster on Tuesday 9th of August 2011 the mayor of Stavanger, Mr Leif Johan Sevland, has decided that a ceremony should take place on the mountain top of Holtaheia in Strand Kommune near Stavanger, and also that a church service will take place in Stavanger Cathedral. Relatives and friends of those who died are invited to attend as well as anyone involved with the rescue at the time. Transport will be provided to and from Stavanger to Holta and thence on foot to the Memorial Cross on the summit of Holtaheia. A lunch will be hosted by the Kommune.

Friends of The Sola Aviation Museum, including members who were involved in the search at the time are planning a commemorative 50th Anniversary Exhibition of the Holtaheia Air Crash. This will be another venue to visit.

More details will be posted as soon as they are known.
Copyright - Chris Jones 2011 ©