On Saturday 16th August 2014 we were just a few days off our first anniversary of moving to the Isle of Tiree. On that particular day at 1.25pm, exactly 70 years after the collision of two Hanley Page Halifax Aircraft from from 518 Squadron RAF, relatives of the crews and their families, representatives from their home nations, senior military personnel, dignitaries from near and far, and many Tiree residents met for the unveiling of a memorial at Tiree Airport.
The event was the culmination of over two years research and planning and was deeply moving. After a short service of remembrance, many of those gathered proceeded to Island House where a minutes silence was observed – the site having close ties with the tragedy. The final act of remembrance was at the War Graves in Soroby Cemetery.
At the Airport rather fittingly the regular passenger flight from Glasgow carried out a flypast. Somehow its landing towards the end of the unveiling did not seem out of place. Later in the afternoon tea/coffee was served at the Cobbled Cow, by the Airport. In the evening many gathered at An Talla (the Community Hall) to share memories and to express thanks around the meal table. The evening finished with a musical rendition by three talented Tiree musicians and a singer.
On Monday the 13th September (2021) Dr Jaromir Marek the UK correspondent for ‘Czech Radio’ arrived on the island by ferry. It was a dreich day and almost predictably the ferry was accompanied by what iseferred to as the berthing shower. In this instance it was more than a shower.
After lunch ‘Life on Tiree’ accompanied Dr Marek to the airport to show him the site of the memorial to those who had died in the afore mention aircraft crash over Tiree Airport.
Unusually there were two ’Twin Otter’ Aircraft on the apron. The morning flight from Glasgow had been unable to return to Glasgow due to a warning light indicating a possible fault with the fuel lines. The second aircraft had brought engineers who working on the underside of the plane. A photographer who had arrived on the the ferry was present. No doubt this was just a coincidence. Our guests (Karolina Rezkova and Jaromir Marek) witnessed the second twin otter to arrive take off for Glasgow.
As well as photographing the memorial plaque Dr Marek was interested in the historical display within the Airport. They had never been in a Uk airport like Tiree where you did not have to go through security.
After the airport we proceeded to the entrance to Island house where some of the wreckage from the crash came down and where the short remembrance service and a minutes silence had been observed in 2014.
From Island House we continued on to Soroby and the graveyard with its Commonwealth War Graves. There Dr Marek laid a wreath at the grave of Leonard Revilliod. Flying Officer Leonard Revilliod was grandson of the first President of Czechoslovakia, Tomas Masaryk.
Leonard Revilliod was flying with RAF Tiree when his plane collided with another in 1944 over Tiree, with the loss of all 16 airmen on both aircraft. Leonard studied at Edinburgh University and as Swiss citizen he was not given permission to join the RAF, however he went ahead and did his training before being posted to Tiree.
Minister of Foreign of Czechoslovakia, Jan Masyrak, flew with his daughter-in-law to Tiree for the funeral. Since that day various individuals from the Czech Republic have visited Tiree and a report of one these visits on the day the memorial was unveiled can be found online.
This is ‘Life on Tiree’