Last night I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak to Croydon Women’s Institute about the disaster history of their area. One incident that I mentioned was the air crash of 9 December, 1936, which was, at the time the deadliest in British history.
That day, Croydon Airport was shrouded by fog, with visibility down to about 50 yards, as a KLM DC-2 took off for Amsterdam. Because of the fog, the pilot was having to follow a while line on the grass of the airfield to get the right line – a common procedure at UK airports at the time, and one that had been successfully used for a number of departures that day.
This time, the DC-2 veered off the line and, instead of heading west as it should have done, started to go south towards higher ground. After clearing the airport it struck the chimney of a house, and crashed into another, fortunately empty, home on the other side of the street.
Fire broke out, and the aircraft and two houses were destroyed. Of the 17 passengers and crew on board, only two survived. Among the dead was Arvid Lindman, a former Swedish Prime Minister.