Lanfranc memorial service a chance for healing

Croydon Minster, unwittingly close to the geographic centre of Monday night’s infamous events, on Sunday will stage a memorial service to mark the 50th anniversary of a previous Croydon tragedy, the Archbishop Lanfranc School air disaster.

The solemn commemoration service at the site of the Lanfranc air disaster 50 years ago

On August 9, 1961, a Cunard Eagle Airways Vickers Viking with three crew members, carrying 34 teenaged schoolboys and two teachers from what was then the Lanfranc Secondary Modern School, crashed just below the summit of Holtaheia, a mountain near Stavanger in Norway. All 38 men and one woman were killed instantly.

Just to read, even at five decades’ distance, the list of the names of the dead, boys just 14 years old in some cases, all listed together with their addresses, in streets familiar from Thornton Heath, West Croydon, Waddon, Norwood and Norbury, is a chilling experience.

Click here to view some Pathe newsreel from the time.

It was the worst accident of its kind to have occurred since the Second World War, and at that time, Norway’s worst aviation disaster. The whole of Croydon was in shock because almost everyone knew someone involved. The town went into mourning.

On Tuesday, the precise anniversary, a ceremony of commemoration was due to held on the mountain, and at Stavanger Cathedral.

On Sunday, Croydon will remember the tragedy at its own parish church, as well as reflect on recent tragic events in Oslo and those closer to home.

The service is open to everyone from Croydon, who are asked to arrive at 2.45pm. Clearly, given the events of earlier this week and subsequent road closures, there may be some issues with parking nearby, so those attending are asked to try to come by public transport if they can.

Local community leader John Cheetham says, “We will also remember the Norwegian young people murdered last month and the citizens of Oslo killed, wounded or effected by their city centre bomb.

“Croydon, I think, wants to express it’s solidarity with the good folk of Norway and with the relatives and friends of the Lanfranc boys, staff and flight crew who died and I don’t think will be deterred by Monday night’s violence and looting.

“From the Minster you can see and smell today’s devastation at Reeves Corner. Like me you may have seen and heard some of the violence and looting in our shops and on our streets. Maybe you saw it on TV or on your street. In every way possible we need to show the people who did this damage to our town that we are not going to accept this sort of damage to our communities and neighbourhoods.

“Those Lanfranc pupils who died on a Norwegian mountainside would now be part of the very heart of Croydon life. I wonder how they would have viewed last night’s lawlessness in their town?

“One of the ways we can do this is by coming together in common purpose in our Minster on Sunday afternoon. Do please come yourself and bring your family and friends. You will all be very welcome and I look forward to seeing you there.

“And at this particular time perhaps we want to come together, right across Croydon, to show those who rampaged through our town on Monday night that it is our town, not theirs.”

  • Croydon Minster (the old Parish Church of Croydon) is the big church at the bottom of Church Street, Croydon and next to Reeves Corner. Parking at the Minster is very limited and reserved for those with mobility problems. Old Palace School has offered free use of their car park from 2.15 – 5pm. Thanks Old Palace.
  • For more information about the Lanfranc School air disaster, click here.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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