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Bristol Airport was the only civil airport to operate throughout the Second World War. The BOAC DC3 flew four times a week between Whitchurch and Lisbon. Much secrecy surrounded this service and it is thought that it was frequently used by spies, exchanged prisoners-of-war and politicians. All passengers using this flight had to check-in at The Grand Hotel, Bristol and were then transferred to Whitchurch in a coach with all the windows blacked out, so passengers were not aware of the location of the airport.
On 1 June1943, Flight 777 took off from Lisbon bound for Whitchurch and was attacked over the Bay of Biscay by an entire squadron of Luftwaffe fighters with the loss of everyone on board. According to speculation, the Germans believed Winston Churchill was on board because Howard’s manager bore a resemblance to the Prime Minister. Many details of Flight 777 are still shrouded in mystery and the official papers on the incident are not expected to be released until 2025.
Robert Sinclair, Chief Executive Officer of Bristol Airport, and Ivan Sharp, whose grandfather was a passenger on Flight 777, marked the event by unveiling a plaque which will be displayed in the terminal to commemorate the flight. A similar plaque was presented to Lisbon Airport on this day last year.
A wreath in remembrance of all those on the flight was also received from Ben Rosenvink, the son of Engburtus Rosenvink who was the flight engineer on Flight 777.
Mike Littleton, Bristol Airport’s Community Relations Manager, said:
“Flight 777 was a tragic chapter in Bristol Airport’s 80 year history, but one we think should be remembered. The facts remain a mystery, but this plaque will help to ensure the sad loss of the 17 people on board will not be forgotten.
“Our history is very important to us, and we celebrated the 80th anniversary of the official opening of Bristol Airport at the end of May. Bristol Airport has come along way from its early days serving 900 passengers a year, and we are proud of our aviation heritage.”
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