On November 6 1957, the Bristol Britannia airliner G-ANCA, on a test flight from Filton Airfield, plunged into a wood in the Downend suburb of Bristol, instantly killing the 15-man crew. This catastrophe left an indelible mark on those who witnessed the horror unfold, and their memories are at the heart of this story.
The video documentary released by 1st Take in 1997 has now been digitally enhanced and extended with fascinating new footage. To mark the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, the local parish council organised a commemorative service at the crash site, and this DVD includes the most comprehensive coverage of that poignant occasion. Among the speakers were Beryl Statham, widow of the test pilot, and Richard Randall, author of the book Death of a Giant, on which the original video was based. There is also rare, previously unseen footage of the Britannia in flght.
Other new accounts include those of Trevor Coles, a schoolboy in 1957, who remembers watching the tragedy while playing in his garden; and John Ottewell, a former Pathfinder navigator, who was closely involved with the Britannia project, and who vividly recalls a meeting with world-renowned entrepreneur Howard Hughes. Other highlights include the recollections of notable test pilots from that era, Godfrey Auty and Walter Gibb, and a tribute to Bristol’s proud aviation heritage. Finally, we visit Britannia woods to experience the new walkway, laid out so that people can pay their own remembrance to those brave aviation pioneers.
Despite the loss of G-ANCA, and earlier setbacks such as the forced landing of a Britannia on the Severn, a dedicated test team turned disaster into triumph. The result was one of the safest, quietest and most fondly remembered British airliners. Ultimately, this DVD is a tribute to their achievement.