The Lanfranc Air Disaster

On 9th August 1961, thirty-four pupils – members of Lanfranc Secondary Modern School as it was at that time – together with two teachers, died in a tragic air disaster on their way to Norway. Three air crew also perished in the crash that happened on the Holtaheia Mountain in Strand which is near Stavanger in Norway. Travelling from London Airport in a Cunard Eagle Airways Vickers 610 Viking 3B aircraft, the plane, code named Papa Mike, crash landed into the mountainside, killing all on board instantly.

The boys, aged 13-16, together with the teaching staff, John Beacham and George Budd, were on their way to a camping expedition in the Norwegian highlands. However, they never reached Sola airport, with the Official Norwegian Commission and British Accident Investigation Board reporting that, ‘deviation from the prescribed flight path for unknown reasons’ caused the disaster.

The communal funeral took place on 17th August 1961 at Croydon Cemetery on Mitcham Road; thousands of people lined the funeral procession route, laying wreaths in tribute to those who died. It was reported that over 100,000 mourners paid their respects in the days and weeks following the ceremony. A replica of the Norwegian Cross that remains at the site of the disaster was gifted by the people of Stavanger and stands at the Memorial Garden in Croydon Cemetery.

The Archbishop Lanfranc Academy continues to commemorate those who passed away tragically in August, 1961. With a dedicated memorial to all thirty-nine who died in the Academy Main Hall, their lives are remembered by the current academy community and for those to commemorate in the future.

The Lanfranc Boys, by Rosalind Jones, charts the stories behind the boys and those directly affected by the events of August 1961.