On the 11th of February 1985 in Langenbruck, Germany, an event took place that would shake the world of RAF Music Services and many families from that day forward.
The Band of the Royal Air Force Germany based at Royal Air Force Rheindalen was travelling on a coach to an engagement at the RAF Winter Survival School in Bavaria, when they collided with an aviation tanker on the autobahn. The devastating accident resulted in 21 people losing their lives - 19 RAF Musicians, a RAF Policeman and the civilian coach driver.
During their time as musicians with the Band of The Royal Air Force Germany, they helped to maintain the high esteem in which RAF Music is held and were fine ambassadors of our Service.
An accident of this magnitude, when friends and colleagues make the ultimate sacrifice, should never be forgotten. So, on the 11th of February each year, RAF Music Services hold a ceremony to remember and pay tribute to those who died.
To mark the 30th Anniversary, personnel from the Band of the Royal Air Force College constructed a new Memorial close to the band room at RAF College Cranwell. Also, a Memorial Window was designed and installed at St Christopher’s Church, RAF Northolt.
The original design for the stunning window came from (then) Squadron Leader Piers Morrell, Director of Music, Central Band of the RAF, who worked closely with the artist, Karen Newby, to produce a truly wonderful tribute to all who lost their lives and a constant reminder that they are forever in our thoughts.
The design is centred on the Roll of Honour on which the names of those who tragically lost their lives are presented, duplicated exactly as they are on the plaques of names on the Band of the Royal Air Force Germany Memorial Plinth which is located outside Headquarters Music Services at RAF Northolt. This was done to provide both continuity to the memorials and to link them to each other. In addition to the names and the date of the Germany accident, the dates that the Band operated in Germany are also included to reflect that this, one day, will hold meaning to all who served with the Band of the Royal Air Force Germany and Royal Air Force Germany.
The top panel of the window features the RAF crest to signify that everyone listed on the Roll of Honour, both military and civilian, were part of the RAF family and will therefore be remembered for their contribution to the Service.
"The lower panel holds the crests for Royal Air Force Germany and the Band of the Royal Air Force Germany to signify and further represent that those listed on the Roll of Honour were part of both units. These are placed side by side to reflect the interaction between the units they represent and to acknowledge the close working relationships that existed between the RAF Musicians, the RAF Police and civilian drivers. Those relationships ensured that the musicians of the Band of the Royal Air Force Germany could complete ceremonial duties and provide defence engagement throughout Europe on behalf of the Royal Air Force."
Wing Commander Morrell
Principal Director of Music
The Band of the RAF College relocated to another building at RAF College Cranwell in 2015 – the Band members wanted to create a memorial garden at the Band’s new location to provide a place of solace for friends, family and serving members to remember and reflect. Sergeant (Sgt) Martin Robbins volunteered to design, organise the materials and coordinate the construction.
It was decided from an early stage that a rose would be planted for every person who died in the accident, including some climbers to grow up the existing wall and over the new pergola. Rosemary plants, a sign of remembrance, were included as well as box hedging to edge the paths and give the garden some structure. A large memorial stone, containing the names of all those who tragically lost their lives, would be positioned in front of an existing majestic blue cedar tree.
The original brass memorial plaque from the small garden at the previous band room was to be mounted on the wall above the roses.
"Materials were ordered and work began on marking out the site with every member of the band giving up their time to help, each showing complete commitment and support for the creation of a peaceful garden for reflection and remembrance. Taking advantage of the practical skills many personnel revealed during the process and battling through some very wet and cold conditions, paving was laid and the long wooden pergola was constructed. The final stage of careful planting followed and the whole project was completed in a matter of weeks. The finished garden is a beautiful tribute and is carefully maintained by serving members of the Band of the RAF College."
Royal Auxiliary Air Force Band
Squadron Leader Robin Tomsett
Warrant Officer Gordon Harrison
Flight Sergeant Brian Hadden
Chief Technician Paul Jenkins
Chief Technician Philip Parker
Chief Technician Alun Thomas
Chief Technician Paul Woods
Sergeant Bill Boyd
Sergeant Brian Perry
Sergeant John Pettit
Sergeant John Tickle
Corporal Bill Buzza
Corporal Sean Cripps
Corporal Andrew Saunders
Junior Technician Simon Goodge
Junior Technician Andrew Mannas
Junior Technician Ian Smith
Junior Technician Philip Smith
Junior Technician Colin Wilson
We also remember Corporal George Crawford of the Royal Air Force Police who was travelling with the Band and the coach driver, Herr Kronke.