French Plane Crashes on Djouce Mountain

12th August 1946

From the foot of Djouce on the seaward side, I could see something glittering in the sun up near the summit. This was the resting place of the plane... I walked up close to her. She was rocking a little in the wind that came rushing down from the valley. In the cabin the first thing I saw was splints - of every shape and size, some bound with cotton wadding. There was a French prayer book. There were several small navy-blue berets lying about with tricolour linings. Stacked along one side of the cabin were tightly filled rucksacks. On top of the radio set just aft of the cockpit was a large sodden piece of turf.

Patrick Campbell 1946

French plane crashes into Djouce Mountain 12th August 1946
A Junkers 52 plane crashes on Djouce Mountain

At 8.02 GMT on 12 August 1946 a Junkers 52 carrying a group of French Girl Guides and 249 gallons of petrol prepared to leave Le Bourget Airport near Paris en route to Dublin. For the excited girls, invited to a holiday camp in Rathfarnham by their Irish counterparts as a gesture of compassion after the war, this was the first great adventure of their lives. Over the Irish Sea however the plane hit stormy weather and visibility was reduced to almost nothing.

Attempting to steer his plane under a cloud to get a better view, what he actually saw caused the pilot, in a sickening spin of adrenalin, to pull back hard on the control column. The pilot was the first to realise that his plane with its crew of five and twenty-one passengers was on a collision course for a mountain. Ten seconds later it was too late.

The three engines were ripped from their seating, the massive tyres flung on one side. The undercarriage collapsed and showers of mud and turf poured into the cabin.

The story of the crash and subsequent rescue operation, where the rescuers themselves got into difficulties, some of them having to form human chains linking each other for support, is brought to life in the book When Our Plane Hit the Mountain by Suzanne Barnes. It is a gripping story of adventure, peril, fortitude and ultimately - thanks to an amazing set of circumstances - survival.

French Girl Guides farewell to Ireland
Farewell to Ireland, the Girl Guides fly home.


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