Lockerbie revisited

It was a hard day yesterday an easy drive took me to Lockerbie in plenty time before the filming. I took the opportunity to visit the Memorial garden to the victims of the Lockerbie Disaster and also visit the visitor centre at the cemetery. It has all been done very tastefully and I was impressed by the information and the way the disaster has been dealt with and is on display. Locals from the village run the centre and I had a interesting and comforting chat about the disaster. There are so many poignant memories for me here but the incredible understanding I received today made a very difficult task a bit easier. Many of the rescue services who were involved have visited this place and found comfort. The centre has so many different exhibits and the stories behind the art work and pieces is wonderful as is the many comments and quotes from the victims families. So many lives were changed on this fateful day.


The memorial itself is stunning with all the names on it is massive,prominent but not obtrusive. I was there alone and there was a piece of stone with the word “Love “put next to it. I spent some time here it was a beautiful place.

The Lockerbie Remembrance Garden and  memorial

The Lockerbie Remembrance Garden and memorial

The town has recovered from that awful night but many will never forget what happened and life goes on as it did at the time of the disaster. My interview was held near the golf course where the fields were once was covered by wreckage and broken souls. Today the sun was out and the fields were so lush and green. This is such a beautiful place to be and on a day like this it was incredible. Yet at times I was back in that dark night in December so many years ago.

The interview was fairly long and difficult from the start to the end. It was soul searching so many subjects were covered it was hard the mind is a complex thing. In the end I hope I gave the subject justice and that the efforts of so many and the effects and scars we carry are mentioned in the film to be shown near the anniversary in December. I remembered so many things during the interview that my mind had deleted like a computer thats memory was full. It is the minds way of coping. It was far too dangerous that first night to go out into the hell of fire smoke twisted wreckage and carnage and it was hard trying to keep the teams together. The sense of uselessness was hard to bear for people who are used to helping others. A Reece had shown that nothing could be done for those poor souls. As the daylight broke the teams were out the fires had died down but the horror was there for all to see. Fatality after fatality was located and the place marked and the teams moved through plotting on the map where they were located. Teams came back every few hours for a debrief/break and soon we had a map of such horror of casualties it was surreal. This went on for two days it became routine if their is such a thing! The hard things was the fatalities were left where they fell this was now a scene of crime and a poor Policeman was attached with each one. Many would be scarred for life. The teams put jackets and other clothing over the casualties to give them a dignity. This was the hard part and we passed through the area on our way to search other areas . How do you work in such a situation ? It becomes a routine and you have a great bond where the experienced look after the younger team members. It was all off the cuff coping with the situation. Also the help from the local people and the WRVS who were there when we struggled. they were doing what Mums do best looking after families and we were all now part of the Lockerbie family. The search area was massive over 800 square miles in the end? We had a jet fly over and do a photo recce to show us areas to search most of this was done by the helicopters a difficult task the complexity of the search was huge!

As we returned to normality after 3 days many of us felt secretly guilty there was so little we could do. Yet we had we had made a map of the area marked the casualties locations and found the “black box recorder ” The teams engineering knowledge was also relevant in identifying the various parts of aircraft wreckage. This was so important for the future investigation, we had done our job. Our control at Pitreavie said we had to go back and regroup as you never no what the next incident could be? We all needed a change of clothes and to get the smell of aviation fuel and death of our clothes!
We were now into Christmas which was so different from any other and would be for many for ever. Reports were completed the world wanted to know what happen and many lessons learned there was no switching off. Life went on wild rescues in the mountains in winter continued , we did get debriefed by physiologist later on. This was a huge decision point for many in the world of the military as at that time “big boys did not cry” especially in the military I can assure you they do and still do. Huge lessons were learned for the future and out of such horror came so many valuable ways of coping that can only help future generations. The military thank God now recognize this as “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” PTSD and many are now treated after the huge lessons learned from this tragedy. So some good has evolved from this evil?

Many of our families suffered Dad / Mum became different people many had huge mood swings,anger sleeplessness and endless nightmares took over. I was myself very ill but that is another story. We now no how to deal with this through the work of so many but many relationships marriages/ suffered and broke up for good. In the end time heals but I was asked at the end of the interview if this tragedy changed my life? Without a doubt it did it was life changing for me and many more. I have and like so many of the teams and agencies involved learned to live with it.

Why did this tragedy happen ? I ask myself this often and how can “man,s inhumanity to man” allow civilised people to kill innocent people? Who carried out this atrocity ? The answers are still out there I wonder if they will ever be revealed? We owe it to those who died to answer these questions?

Many youngsters have little clue what happens in the little town of Lockerbie all these years ago. We owe it to them to tell the story. I would advise anyone who was effected by the tragedy to go back with a friend or loved one to Lockerbie and visit the Visitor Centre at the Garden of remembrance. It is such a beautiful and tranquil place. We must never forget that all these lives that were lost,many of them youngsters in the prime of their lives this is not a story this really happened to real people.How do you try to mention what so many did all these years ago? I was fortunate I only spent 3 days at Lockerbie. The local Mountain Rescue teams Search Dogs were there for so much longer as were do many other Agencies were there for weeks’. The locals had to get on with life and try to give their children a Christmas?

We finished the interview by doing some takes in the grounds of the house we were in . It was now after 1700 and the sun was still hot. It was so beautiful I felt the sun warming me and nature has away of showing you what really matters. The film crew went off to film before the light went.

I was driving to my great friends Lyle and Judy,s near Hawick. It was a wonderful night the Borders hills were stunning the colours were so vibrant and the light ever changing. The road was so quite and the fields were busy with the harvest getting completed.
It was a lovely drive and soon I was with friends and we had a lovely evening dragging out the last rays of the sun before we went inside to eat.

Poor Lyle and Judy had to listen to me at the meal talking about the day. That is why they asked me to stay with them overnight, it was so kind of them. There are so many good people out there we must never “let evil triumph over good ”

I have all ready received a few emails from my blog yesterday and so many good friends still have  memories of this fateful day! To those who I have stirred up unhappy memories I apologies! Look after them a cuddle is sometimes all that is needed.

I am heading back to home today and leave the peace and beauty of the Borders to a busy motorway drive. I need a wander in the mountains to let nature clear my mind I may stop off on the way back and do this it.

Nature is better than any medicine!

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of their skin, or their background or religion. People must learn to hate and if they can learn to hate they can also learn to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Nelson Mandela

Thanks to all the Lockerbie family we are bound by a bond that will never break.


About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, Family, Friends, Views Political?. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Lockerbie revisited

  1. ptsd17 says:

    Glad you went back, and to hear there is good prevailing in such a tragic place.


  2. Johnny Macleod says:

    I couldn’t of gone back Heavy. A very good piece though. Thank you.


  3. Jim Rintoul says:

    Great article Heavy, take care, Jimbo


  4. Raz Frew says:

    Great words Heavy.


  5. Andy Craig says:

    Nicely done Heavy, I still remember when as an LMRT rep at the dedication service there the sight of two aircraft contrails forming a St Andrews Cross in the clear blue sky. Caused quite a stir during the service. Will call in there again in October on the way down to Cheshire.


  6. Ali Macdonald says:

    Thank you for this article. I was a member of the Tweed Valley MRT who was at Lockerbie on the night and the days that followed the tragedy. I remember you well Heavy and the great leadership you showed us all over the days that followed. I’ve never been back, but your article has given me the incentive and the strength to go back one day soon to pay my respects.


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