Remembering Lockerbie: Wednesday, 21st December, 1988.
Pan Am Flight 103 was a transatlantic flight from London Heathrow Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York. The aircraft was destroyed by a bomb on Wednesday, 21 December 1988, killingall 243 passengers and 16 crew members. The aircraft operating the flight was a Boeing 747 named ‘Clipper Maid of the Seas’. The flight originated in Frankfurt, West Germany, and ‘Maid of the Seas’ was to take the passengers onward from Heathrow, London, to Queens, New York.
The bomb exploded as ‘Maid of the Seas’ approached the corner of the Solway Firth on the Cumbria-Dumfries and Galloway border at about 7pm that night. The area is only a few miles from my home.
A British Airways pilot, flying the Glasgow–London shuttle near Carlisle, alerted authorities by reporting that he could see a huge fire on the ground.
The cockpit voice recorder was found in a field by police the following day. The aircraft’s nose cone was blown off and found three miles from Lockerbie town centre near Tundergarth church. Part of the fuselage landed in Sherwood Crescent, Lockerbie, where the remains of its fuel ignited. A fireball destroyed several houses. Another section of the fuselage landed about one and half miles northeast in Park Place.
Eleven people on the ground were killed.
Surrounding police forces were contacted that evening and requested to provide ‘search and rescue’ teams. The residents of Lockerbie mobilised to assist public services. Serving and off duty members from Dumfries and Galloway Emergency Services attended the area in significant numbers. Off duty nurses, doctors and surgeons turned out in vast numbers to treat the injured.
Sadly, there were no survivors.
Officers from D Section, Carlisle police station, Cumbria Constabulary, attended the area - along with many others - to conduct search and recovery operations. An area of 845 square miles was searched. In the months that followed Carlisle airport became a pivotal location in the international support and logistics operation that ensued.
Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary - the smallest police force in the United Kingdom - took the lead in one of the most complex international criminal investigations known to law enforcement agencies the world over. It was assisted by America's Federal Bureau of Investigation and the British Intelligence Services.
To date, this atrocity remains the deadliest aviation incident, as well as the deadliest act of terrorism, ever recorded in the United Kingdom.
(Acknowledgement – BBC News, personal experience)
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I wrote this poem for those who searched, those who lost, and those who still remember…
From A Clouded Sky
~ ~ ~
A northbound flight from Germany, in the East,
Hours later, all life ceased!
From a clouded sky, they fell like rain,
Leaving on the heather years of pain.
In seconds, scarring tartan soil beneath,
But in years, a heartfelt legacy of grief.
There was no time to weep. There was no time to sleep.
Electronic pulses! Phones!
Helicopter engines! Drones!
Then, on the ground, searching amongst swaying trees,
To find those lifeless,
Cradled in the breeze.
The cockpit’s there!
Stark! Bare! No life there!
Followed by miles and miles, walking each day.
Handling death, pure cold decay.
See line abreast, heroic aces,
Trying to ignore those twisted faces.
Holding back escaping tears,
To confirm again those very worst fears.
And so they searched, by and by,
Brushing carnage from the Lockerbie sky.
Since then, the winds of time have tumbled,
But ageing memories have not crumbled.
Strolling now in those acres of gloom,
There’s green grass, and a scented spring bloom.
And every blade of resplendent green,
Is a smile from someone’s loved one, now serene.
© Paul Anthony
(Extracted from ‘Sunset’, a collection of 'police poetry')