Barbara Jane Harrison. GC. The Ultimate Sacrifice.
An Air Stewardess To The End.
It was April 8th 1968, Flight 712 took off from Heathrow Airport. London. Bound for Sydney. Australia. The flight carried a full compliment of 126 passengers. A few minutes into the flight, the flight deck of this Boeing 707 was rocked by a huge blast, the aircraft began to shudder as control was lost on the flight deck. In less than a minute an engine caught fire and fell from the aircraft's wing. Thankfully the pilot regained control and was able to land the aircraft. However the aircraft had caught fire.
The Tragedy unfolds.
There was a full emergency turn out and all help that could be given was on site as the aircraft stopped on the runway. Whilst still burning the doors were opened to enable passengers to use the inflatable escape chutes. At the rear door of the aircraft was a steward and stewardess Barbara Jane Harrison. The chute at their door twisted as it inflated, the steward had to climb down it to straighten it out. Harrison was alone trying to help the passengers through the door. The aircraft was still ablaze when flames blocked the Galley. This meant that passengers could not now get to the back doors. Harrison redirected those still trapped to the other exits. She remained at her post. She knew that there was an elderly passenger, still seated in one of the last rows of seats.
Having helped so many to safety, this brave young woman turned and performed her last act. She went to the aid of the elderly passenger. She was finally overcome. The body of the passenger was found close to hers. She had done her best. Barbara was born on 24 May 1945 in Bradford, Yorkshire. She lost her life on 8th April.1968.
The George Cross is awarded for gallantry, it is usually awarded during times of war, though it is also awarded in peacetime. Barbara Jane Harrison is the only woman to have been awarded the medal in peacetime.
GC. The George Cross.
© 2012 Graham Lee