Bury St Edmunds: Rugby club remembers the 18 players and officials that died in 1974 Paris air crash

Bury v East Grinstead. Players held 
o
ne minutes silence for the players who lost their lives in a plane crash 40 years ago Bury v East Grinstead. Players held o ne minutes silence for the players who lost their lives in a plane crash 40 years ago

Monday, March 10, 2014
10:11 AM

It was a “special, special” day at Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club on Saturday as the town paid tribute to those that lost their lives in a plane crash 40 years ago.

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The club’s match against East Grinstead marked an emotional day of events to honour 18 of the club’s players and officials who were among 346 that died in the 1974 Paris air crash.

Dozens of friends and family of those who died reunited to mark the crash’s 40th anniversary, with special scenes off the pitch matched by arguably the club’s best performance this season as they ran out 13-8 winners.

The club’s current youth chairman Gordon Ellis was eight-years-old when his father Bryan, who was club chairman at the time, died in the accident.

Gordon said: “It affected us all in very different ways. A wife lost a husband, a father lost a child, a brother lost a sister, a sister lost a brother, but the people who were left behind, some of the friends of the people who died lost 20 friends. For some people, it’s taken this long to heal.

“It was a celebration. I didn’t know how it was going to go – you never do – but it couldn’t have been better. I met old friends, and new friends from East Grinstead. It emphasises not just what Bury is about, but what rugby is about.

“Not only was it well organised, but it was just the right tone. It was a wonderful day, a special, special day, and I hope those that came enjoyed it.”

Monday last week marked 40 years to the day since the plane crashed into woodland just minutes after take-off, and Mr Ellis was among a group that travelled to the crash site to pay their respects.

Eighty-seven cyclists have signed up for a memorial bike ride to mark the tragedy in May, and will travel from the site of the crash at Ermenonville back to the rugby club. The funds will be split between the club and St Nicholas Hospice Care.

Current club chairman Mike Robinson described the day as “outstanding”.

He added: “The atmosphere at the club was fantastic and the players really did the club proud. It was a great crowd and it was so moving to see so many of the people we hadn’t seen at the club for so many years.

“It was exactly the sort of tribute we wanted to give the guys who died. All the families were really appreciative of what the club had laid on.

“But it wasn’t only about paying tribute to the guys that lost their lives, but also to many of the guys who were left behind and had to rebuild the club. The club could have folded at that point and it was important to recognise their efforts.”

To sponsor the memorial cycle visit www.justgiving.com/memorialcycleride

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