Salvation Army remembers Lockerbie disaster on the 25th anniversary

published on 20 Dec 2013

The Salvation Army has paid tribute to the people who lost their lives in the Lockerbie disaster 25 years ago.

At 7.03pm on December 21, 1988 a bomb explosion ripped through Pan Am Flight 103 heading for New York, killing all 259 people on board and 11 more in the quiet Scottish town below.

The shockwaves are still being felt from that day as the world remembers the UK’s worst air disaster.

Among the first on the scene of the devastation were members of The Salvation Army from neighbouring corps in Scotland and the north of England.

The Salvation Army responding in Lockerbie

News of the disaster quickly filtered through to the territorial emergency team - who, along with a fleet of ambulances, were given a police escort to Lockerbie. Arriving in the town, the uniformed Salvation Army officers were waved through a police checkpoint and invited to set up a control centre in the local high school.

Colonel Derek Elvin, South West Scotland Divisional Commander, and Colonel John Flett, Financial Secretary at Scotland headquarters, co-ordinated the church and charity’s response as Salvation Army mobile canteens began serving military, police and civilian workers engaged in the task of recovering bodies and wreckage. Static canteens were also set up, including one at the temporary mortuary where the task of identifying the dead was carried out.

As night turned to day, Salvation Army officers visited homes affected to offer shellshocked residents what comfort they could. Many officers stayed in Lockerbie over Christmas and New Year to maintain round-the-clock help.

More than 200 Salvation Army volunteers were involved in the immediate aftermath of Lockerbie – and as the days turned to years, Col. Elvin’s wife Mary and Captain Caroline Buchanan, the Commanding Officer at Annan, continued to visit the town each week to offer counselling. This was done at first on an informal basis but soon a number of homes were opened to them. The local Catholic priest even made a room in his church available to the officers and placed a Salvation Army crest in the window so people would know where to come.

As a result of The Salvation Army’s work in Lockerbie, a permanent presence was eventually established there – first in the form of charity shop in 1992 before the corps was officially opened a year later. This month marks the 20th anniversary of The Salvation Army’s Lockerbie Corps.

In order to remember those who lost their lives at Lockerbie, members of The Salvation Army will attend a commemorative wreath-laying at Dryfesdale Cemetery on Saturday afternoon and an evening service at Dryfesdale Church later in the night.