Turkish Plane Crash – 1959

On the 17th February 1959 a Viscount Airliner crashed in Jordan’s Wood to the south of the parish. A newspaper article described the disaster:
‘Mr. Menderes, 60 year old Premier of Turkey, climbed out of the blazing wreckage of a Viscount airliner and was found staggering through a wood near Gatwick Airport. A Surrey farmer and his wife took charge of him. Then after treatment at a local hospital he was taken to the London Clinic. Fourteen of the twenty-four people on board died in the plane which was bringing Turkish leaders to London from Ankara for top level talks on the Cyprus settlement. The Viscount on charter from Turkish Airlines was diverted to Gatwick because of fog at London Airport. Another plane diverted at the same time was bringing Mr. Constantine Karamanlis, the Greek Premier, from Athens. This landed safely fifteen minutes after the Turkish plane crashed. The pilot of the Greek aircraft said that visibility was up to a mile and he had no difficulty in landing. He said he made the same run-in but did not see the crashed plane. Mr. Menderes’ plane was heard circling the area for some time prior to crashing. An official of the Ministry of Civil Aviation said the rescue operations were carried out in extremely difficult conditions. The Viscount was an absolute ball of wreckage. The plane cut a swathe through the woods and the tail came off.
Mrs. Margaret Bailey nursed the Turkish Premier at her sixteenth century farmhouse in Newdigate. She was in the house three miles from the end of the runway when her husband Anthony rushed in from the fields, where he had seen the Viscount loom out of the fog and crash. They drove to the scene through the narrow Surrey lanes. Mrs. Bailey said “I saw three figures stumbling towards me out of the wreckage of the plane. They looked dreadful as they came out of the fog. I did not know who they were but I piled them into the car and then a man I later found to be Mr. Menderes’ equerry told me that one of them was the Turkish Premier. I drove back to the farmhouse and my husband stayed on to see if he could help. Mr. Menderes could not speak, he was obviously badly shocked.’
Adnan Menderes was born in 1899 and formed the Democratic Party in 1946. This was one of the first legal opposition parties in Turkey. His party came to power in 1950 during the first free elections in Turkish history and Menderes became premier. He won the 1954 and 1957 elections so served as Premier for ten years. During his terms, he followed liberal economic rules, allowing more private enterprises, and held good relations with both East and West. He became very popular amongst the public during those years, but at the same time he censored the newspapers and arrested journalists in order to oppress the opposing political parties, therefore he wasn’t liked much by the intellectuals.
On the 27th May 1960 an army coup under General Cemal Gürsel toppled the Government and Menderes was arrested. He was charged with violating the Constitution and was tried in a prison on Yassiada, a small island in the Princess Islands archipelago off Istanbul. He was found guilty by the military court and sentenced to death by hanging on the Imrali island in the Sea of Marmara. On the 17th September 1961 he was hanged along with two other cabinet ministers.
In 1990, 29 years after his death, the Parliament cleared Adnan Menderes of any misconduct and pardoned him. Today, his mausoleum is located next to Turgut Ozal’s mausoleum in Istanbul.

On the 15th February 2019 a journalist and film man from the Anadolu Film Agency came to Newdigate. The Chief Correspondent Ahmet Gürhan Kartal explained that as it was nearly sixty years to the day since the crash they were going to produce a news story of the event. Here is the result:




Adnan Menderes (1899-1961)