The Douala Memorial Appeal and Refurbishment
Caledonian Airways G-ARUD
On March 4th, 1962 a Sabena DC7C, registered G-ARUD and operating Caledonian Airways flight CA153, crashed on take-off from Douala airport in the Cameroons. The inquiry identified the cause as a failed elevator spring tab. All 111 passengers and crew on board were killed. They were buried in a common, 150ft-long grave in the Douala Bois des Singes cemetery, as repatriation was not possible. Later, a memorial pillar was erected bearing five plaques recording the tragedy, the crew and passengers.
Laurie Campbell (now Aplin) was working for Alan Bartlett (Planning Manager) during 1964/65. Alan was given the task of sorting an acceptable design for the memorial but, as was usual in those days, his Secretary (Laurie) was given most of the "leg work". Laurie approached many companies before finding the right firm (their name has been lost over the years) who produced the material which would not weather in the local climate. The original memorial was completed in 1965.
Over the years the cemetery has become much busier, and other graves now surround the memorial grave, but the memorial stone has stood watch over those laid to rest there come rain or shine for 50 years.
Caledonian’s directors left some funds for the upkeep of the memorial and in the 1980s Sir Adam arranged for the memorial to be refurbished. That is now over 30 years ago (in 2015). Unsurprisingly, this marker of an airline disaster has deteriorated. The monument still stands, the graveyard is tended, but the plaques are missing and the surrounding edging stones are in poor shape.
Before we started
Funds were needed to restore this memorial and Dave Thaxter, who created and edits this website, most laudably suggested the initiative and together, and as a team, we set the work in hand. (see photo to left).
We sought contributions, albeit few of us are likely to visit the site to see the results of our generosity.
You may ask “Why should we be concerned about a monument to an event which took place more than 50 years ago in a remote location in Africa - and for many not even to an airline in which we served?”
The answer is clear. All the airlines which formed part of British Caledonian, stretching back to our 1920s forerunners, are part of our heritage. The pride we have and the responsibility which we took for the airline in which we served is an inheritance from our predecessors. Quite simply, we owe respect to the memorial of that 1962 tragedy and cannot just let it deteriorate as though nobody cares or remembers.
Alastair Pugh & Trevor Boud
Former Vice-Chairmen, Caledonian Group
Works Underway in Douala - Feb 2015
Work in progress
My thanks go to Leonard Bebchick, Patricia Sheldon, William Murphy, Stuart Matthews, David Braithwaite, Ian Lucas, Margaret Trett, Derek Hodgson, George Banks, Ken Honey, Will Puk, Tony Cocklin, Alastair Pugh and Trevor Boud who all kindly who made contributions to the Appeal.
Thanks also to Jacqueline Dillman who kindly liaised with Murielle Koch and the local staff of Air France who helped oversee the works on site.
2015 : The refurbished memorial with its new plaque