By Harry Mottram: Axbridge is to mark five decades since the Swiss air disaster that claimed many lives from the town and nearby in 1973 causing huge grief in the community and in villages in Somerset. The doomed flight was a shopping trip to the Swiss town of Basel with members of Axbridge Ladies Guild, Cheddar Mums’ Night Out group, skittles players from Wrington and Congresbury, plus friends and relatives. Of 139 people on the Invicta International Airlines Flight 435 (IM435) from Bristol Lulsgate to Basel-Mulhouse, 108 died.

A memorial service to mark the disaster will take place at 11am in St John’s church on Easter Monday, 10 April, 2023, with all welcome: whether those affected or those new to the town or too young to remember.

Somerset’s communities were devastated after scores of men lost their wives and more than 40 children lost their mothers in the tragedy that shocked the nation.

Much has been written about the disaster with radio and TV programmes commissioned and umpteen newspaper stories marking the various anniversaries. There have been organised memorial services as well as trips out to Switzerland to lay flowers at the site of the crash. In the pageant the disaster was marked in a poem called Listen:

She wore hotpants round the town,

As Axbridge Rural was shut down.

Her parent’s job moved to Sedgemoor DCC

With offices in Bridgwater ‘n’ Burnham on Sea.

She saw the Strawberry rail line close

And the year when the reservoir froze,

And stifled tears when her auntie died

In a blizzard on a mountainside,

The aircrash at Basel,

That left a scar,

A family wreath for the funeral at noon

Too many died, too young, all too soon.

A funeral service in the town followed the disaster with worldwide media covering the service. The town literally stopped, with businesses closed and the church packed as people came to pay their respects to the victims.

The disaster led to huge changes in the town with a relief fund set up to help motherless families cope with changes. As funds came in across the UK, money was put aside to create a freezer centre in Meadow Street to provide meals for families and also a pre-school for families was set up – one of the first in the country.

There is a lengthy account of the airliner’s last flight and of how and why the plane crashed into a forest on a mountainside in a snow storm on Wikipedia at,as%20the%20Basle%20air%20crash.

Axbridge News is edited by Harry Mottram and is published for the interest of himself and fellow residents

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