Service to mark 50 years since Isle of Wight plane crash

|PIC1|It was an event that will be forever seared onto Dennis Padwick's memory.

Fifty years ago, he was the police inspector who dealt with the Isle of Wight's biggest plane crash, in a quarry near the village of Brook. And he thanks God for the inner strength to cope.

A total of 43 passengers and crew died on 15 November 1957, as the flying boat crashed into a disused chalk pit near Chessell. Two more died shortly afterwards. And it was Dennis who had the grim job of helping relatives to identify the bodies in a temporary mortuary.

Now 93, the retired policeman will be at a special service at St Mary's Church, Brook, to mark the 50th anniversary of the disaster. Organisers are hoping to find the relatives of both survivors and those who died in the crash, so they can invite them to the service on 18 November.

"I was aware of the grace of God to help me to do something I'd never done before," said Mr Padwick, who now lives in Bembridge. "I'd handled dead bodies before, but nothing like this. It's something I remember vividly.

"I was at the scene within half an hour of the crash, and the plane was still burning fiercely. We set up a temporary mortuary at Albany, and they kept bringing these bodies in - I thought they'd never stop. I still remember the names of all the dead.

"Relatives came to identify the bodies, and some of them were in a very distressed state. One man had lost his wife, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter. Someone else had to come back three or four times because he couldn't identify his daughter. I felt sorrow, but I never felt like crying. I had help, inner strength from somewhere, to get through it.

"I think it's a good idea to commemorate the event. The vicar of Brook held a service 50 years ago after the crash, and we did set up places where people could pray at the mortuary."

|PIC2|The service on 18 November will be conducted by the Archdeacon of the Isle of Wight, the Ven Caroline Baston. It will include readings, hymns and prayers.

Nick Dorley-Brown, deputy chairman of the Brook and Mottistone PCC said: "We wanted to mark this anniversary, as there is nothing in the church or on the site to commemorate this tragic event. It shouldn't be forgotten."

The flying boat was taking 50 passengers and eight crew from Southampton to Las Palmas and Madeira via Lisbon. It developed engine problems shortly after take-off and crashed at around 10.50pm. Three honeymoon couples were among those who died.

Soldiers, rescue services and local residents combined to rescue several of the 14 survivors, who were dragged out of the plane before it became an inferno. Author JB Priestley was among those who came to the crash site.

Anyone with links to the disaster, or who wants to find out more about the service can contact Mr Dorley-Brown on 01983-740830.