On August 9th, 1961, on their way to a summer trip in Norway, 34 boys from Lanfranc school in Thornton Heath died when their plane crashed into a mountain near the town of Stavanger. Two of their teachers and three air crew also lost their lives.
Over the anniversary weekend, there were commemoration services at Croydon Minster church and in Norway, and a new plaque with the victims’ names was unveiled halfway up the path leading to the top of the Holtaheia mountain where the plane came down.
Most of the boys were Palace supporters, good sportsmen themselves and, in their early teens, had their whole lives before them. Those lives were cut short when the plane crashed in bad weather, for reasons the British and Norwegian investigators never discovered.
It was the first time the Lanfranc boys had flown on a school trip and, with money tight, families spent much of 1961 saving hard to pay for them to go. The boys did Saturday and holiday jobs to help with the cost. Despite their efforts, some had to drop out at the last minute and opted for a cheaper holiday to Austria by rail instead. They were the lucky ones, as it turned out.
With flying such a novelty at the time, parents were nervous and some had disturbing premonitions about the journey. There were bitter twists of fate.
Thirteen-year-old Quentin Green correctly called heads on the toss of a coin to get the last place on the Vickers Viking aircraft which was to fly them to Norway. His father, Ronald, died four months later of a heart attack, never able to forgive himself for letting his son go on the trip.
The Green family, living in Norbury at the time, had four boys and one girl, Rosalind, who made it a lifelong cause to ensure the Lanfranc disaster was never forgotten.