1937 Sabena Junkers Ju 52 Ostend crash

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Sabena Junkers Ju 52 Ostend crash
JU 52 3M.jpg
A JU 52 similar to the accident aircraft
Date16 November 1937
SummaryControlled flight into terrain in poor weather
SiteOstend, Belgium
51°12′3.42″N 2°53′31.42″E / 51.2009500°N 2.8920611°E / 51.2009500; 2.8920611Coordinates: 51°12′3.42″N 2°53′31.42″E / 51.2009500°N 2.8920611°E / 51.2009500; 2.8920611
Aircraft typeJunkers Ju 52/3m

On 16 November 1937 a Junkers Ju 52/3m owned by Belgian airline SABENA, operating as a scheduled international passenger flight from Munich, Germany,[clarification needed] to London, England, crashed near Ostend, Belgium. The aircraft hit a tall factory chimney while attempting to land at Stene aerodrome near Ostend, Belgium. The accident killed prominent members of the Hesse royal family on the way to London for the wedding of Louis, Prince of Hesse and by Rhine.


The flight from Munich to London was scheduled to stop at Frankfurt, Brussels and Ostend Airport but diverted to Stene Aerodrome due to bad weather. The aircraft hit the chimney of a brick factory and crashed, bursting into flames.[2]

All eleven passengers and crew who boarded the aircraft died. The remains of Grand Duchess Cecilie's newborn son were found among the wreckage; a Belgian official enquiry into the crash concluded that she had given birth during the flight and that the birth was the reason the pilot was attempting to land despite the poor weather conditions.[3][4]

Crew and passengers[edit]


  • Antoine Lambotte, pilot
  • Philippe Courtois, wireless operator
  • Yvan Lansmans, mechanic



The aircraft was a three-engined Junkers Ju 52/3m airliner operated by SABENA and registered in Belgium as OO-AUB.


The wedding of Prince Louis with Margaret Campbell Geddes, daughter of Sir Auckland Geddes was brought forward to the morning after the accident.[2] Baron Riedesel would have been Louis' best man; their friend Oliver Chesterton stood in as best man; the ceremony was small and solemn with the guests in mourning clothes.[8][2]

Immediately following the wedding, Prince Louis and his wife Margaret travelled to Belgium and visited a hospital where the victims' bodies had been laid out.[1]

The Hereditary Grand Duke and Duchess' fourteen-month-old daughter, Johanna, was the only one of the family who was not on board the aircraft. She was adopted by her uncle Louis in early 1938. Johanna died of meningitis in 1939.[9]

With the death of the childless Prince Louis in 1968, the male line of the Hesse and by Rhine became extinct.[citation needed]

The crash and its effect on Cecilie's younger brother, Philip, were featured in season 2 of the Netflix series, The Crown. However, this fictionalised version wrongly implied that Philip was to blame for Cecilie taking the flight, whereas in reality "her decision to travel to London had nothing to do with Philip".[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Princess of Hesse was heavily pregnant when she boarded the aircraft and the body of a baby was found in the wreckage, believed to have been born during the flight.[1]
  2. ^ also known as Prince Louis


  1. ^ a b "The Ostend Air Disaster". The Times. No. 47845. London. 18 November 1937. p. 14.
  2. ^ a b c d "A Tragic Air Crash – Eleven Dead". The Times. No. 47844. London. 17 November 1937. p. 16.
  3. ^ "Birth of Royal Infant seen as Cause of Crash". the Evening Independent. 23 November 1937. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
  4. ^ Curse of HesseTime Magazine
  5. ^ 5 in Grand Ducal Family Die With 6 Others in Air Crash. In: The New York Times, 17. November 1937, S. 1.
  6. ^ A Tragic Air Crash. In: The Times, 17. November 1937, Nr. 47844, S. 16.
  7. ^ Knodt, Manfred: Ernst Ludwig, Großherzog von Hessen und bei Rhein: Sein Leben und seine Zeit. Schlapp, Darmstadt 1978, ISBN 3-87704-006-3, S. 407.
  8. ^ "A Twelfth Victim". Western Argus (Kalgoorlie, WA : 1916 – 1938). Kalgoorlie, WA. 23 November 1937. p. 19. Retrieved 28 June 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  9. ^ Duff (1979)
  10. ^ Nikkhah, Roya (13 November 2022). "Philip wanted to sue The Crown after being blamed for sister's death". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 13 November 2022.


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