|On the 18th February
1956 an Avro York aircraft, G-ANSY, belonging to Scottish Airlines was
on charter to the Royal Air Force to bring back to the UK airmen who
had completed their tour of duty (2 - 2.5 years) in the Suez Canal Zone
of Egypt. Soon after re-fuelling and taking off from RAF
Luqa, Malta, and at a height between 500 - 1000 feet smoke was seen to
be coming from one of the engines. The aircraft continued to
climb slowly but lost power, stalled and crashed to the ground. There
no survivors, 44 airmen, one army private coming back to the UK on
compassionate leave and 5 civilian crew lost their lives. It
is believed to be the most serving personal to be killed in one single
incident since WW2.
Suez Veterans' Association held
a Service of Remembrance at the National Memorial
Arboretum, Alrewas, on the 18th February 2016 to mark the 60th
anniversary of this tragic air crash. Prior to the service 50 crosses
each with a poppy and
engraved with one of the names of those killed were placed beneath the
trees on the SVA Memorial Plot.*
Some of the Remembrance Crosses on the SVA Memorial Plot.*A list of those who lost their lives in the crash can be found on the Roll of Honour page of our website.
In June 2009 I booked a holiday at St. Pauls Bay in Malta, staying at the Saga Coastline Hotel. I had read accounts and the casualty list of the fatal air disaster that happened in Malta on 18th February 1956 when an Avro York aircraft belonging to Scottish Airlines crashed into the mountains near Zurrieg soon after take-off after a refuelling stop at Luqa. There were no survivors. 44 airmen who had completed their time in the Suez Canal Zone and one soldier coming home on compassionate grounds, plus the five civilian air crew were all killed and I discovered that no Memorial had ever been erected for these servicemen or the aircrew.
At a SVA meeting in London I
suggested to John Mitchell that I would like to try and correct this
missing tribute and he
agreed, particularly because he had lost a friend in this tragic
accident, he arranged to
produce a small framed ‘In Memoriam’ message. I wanted to
take with me a SVA and
a Canal Zoners shield but unfortunately the SVA shield is no
longer available so could only
take a Canal Zoners one. This, and
some other paperwork relating to the crash, I took to
Malta with me in my hand luggage.
The day following my arrival I attended the usual voluntary ‘welcome’ meeting at the hotel and was able to discuss my ‘mission’ with Ivan, a very helpful member of the staff, who knew the location of the cemetery at Mtarfa where the casualties were buried in the native limestone. Considering an appropriate siting of the Memorial would be in the near-by Malta Aviation Museum Ivan telephoned and spoke to the staff at the museum who expressed it would be their pleasure to display the Memorial.
I felt a little apprehensive
about getting to the cemetery and museum under my own steam as it would
apparently require a
certain amount of walking, and the day-time temperature was averaging
32°c. However, help
was again at hand in the person of Mrs Marie Avellino, a lecturer from
the Department of Tourism at the University of Malta, who attended the
afternoon to give a talk on ‘Wartime Malta’.
The following morning she kindly drove
me, first to the cemetery where we were welcomed and conducted by Tony
Muscat, the Representative
of the British and Commonwealth War Graves Commission, to the various
of the graves explaining the technique required to position three or
four coffins above each
other in the limestone. We
went on to the Malta Aviation Museum which was about ten minutes drive. Here we were welcomed by
Mr Ray Polidano and other staff members who received our memorial items
and with the assurance they will be portrayed initially in the original
of the museum and then in a new hanger which was under construction.
Altogether a successful and
satisfying mission for which I would like to express, on behalf of the
Suez Veterans Association and
the Canal Zoners, our thanks and appreciation to all parties involved.
Wymark. SVA Member 1603.
The framed Memorial.
of the framed Memorial reads:
TO THE MEMORY OF
44 AIRMEN OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE AND
ONE BRITISH ARMY SOLDIER AND 5 CREW
MEMBERS OF CHARTER AIRCRAFT AVRO
YORK G-ANSY WHO WERE KILLED IN THE
MALTA AIR CRASH OF 18th FEBRUARY
1956 ON RETURN TO THE UNITED KINGDOM
FROM SERVICE IN THE CANAL ZONE
OF EGYPT, AND LAID TO REST IN THE
BRITISH MILITARY CEMETERY, MTARFA,
'WE WILL REMEMBER THEM'
SUEZ VETERANS ASSOCIATION
The receipt issued by the Malta Aviation Museum.
A view in the Mtarfa Cemetery.
The grave stones for some of the Airmen.
Mrs Marie Avellino and Tony Muscat in the Cemetery.
The entrance to the
Malta Aviation Museum.
The existing 'Air Battle of Malta' hanger at the Museum.
UPDATED on 10th September 2013
Some months ago the Malta Tourism Authority approached the Malta Aviation Museum Foundation with a request for them to help in erecting a memorial to those who lost their lives in the Avro York crash. Both bodies are pleased to announce a Memorial has now been erected close to the crash site and is inside a public garden called Gnien il-Gibjun, (The Garden of the Reservoir).
The Memorial is made of stainless steel and is in the shape of a Avro York tail-fin.
Photos supplied by Ray Polidano, Director General, Malta Aviation Museum Foundation.
A MEMORIAL VISIT TO MALTA ORGANISED BY THE
'NOT FORGOTTEN ASSOCIATION'
12th - 19th September 2015
I was invited along with 33 other people, Veterans and serving members who had been injured during different fields of conflict, the main four were from 45 Commando, to visit Malta and with our brilliant organiser, Rosie Thompson, toured the cemeteries, the RAF Museum, and the restored Command Control Room of the 1939-1945 war all relating to the military past of the George Cross Island. We were given a reception by the High Commissioner at his residence.
We stayed at The Grand Excelsior Hotel in Valletta and what a beautiful place it is, the Management and Staff could not do enough for us. We were joined by Joe Falzon who lives in England but spends a lot of time in Malta and he became our very informative guide.
The reason I am writing this piece is due to Joe Falzon, Richard Woolley and the hotel manager and is about the unfortunate air crash in Malta in February 1956 in which forty-four serving RAF personnel, one soldier and five civilian crew were killed. The soldier had embarked at the last minute to come home to the UK on compassionate leave.
I asked Joe if we could visit the graves of the lads, he informed me that we would be visiting the Military Cemetery at Imtarfa so I asked if I could lay a wreath on behalf of the Suez Veterans’ Association as all the lads were flying home after serving their time in the Suez Canal Zone. Most of them were coming home to be de-mobbed.
I contacted our SVA Membership Secretary, Richard Woolley, and asked if he could forward to me at the hotel the names of the lads who died in the crash and a copy of the SVA badge. Richard forwarded both items to the hotel and they did a wonderful job in printing a badge insert for the wreath and the names.
I then asked Joe if we could have a bugler or piper present to play a Lament, but he told me that I had done my bit and leave the rest to him. All the group attended the visit to the Imtarfa Cemetery and Joe and myself had the honour of laying the wreath on the grave of Private A Smith (RAOC) who was the soldier coming home on compassionate leave.
Joe had organised two Buglers who played the Last Post, then we had a minutes silence. To complete the wreath laying ceremony a Piper played a Lament.
This extra report added to the webpage on 14th November 2015
Joe Falzon with Brian Watts laying a wreath on behalf of the Suez Veterans' Association
on one of the graves in the Imtarfa Military Cemetery
The grave of the Army private who was coming home on compassionate leave and had only embarked on the flight at the last minute.
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