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 Cologne, Germany,[clarification needed] to London, England, crashed near Ostend, Belgium. The aircraft hit a tall factory chimney while attempting to land at Steene 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 Frankfurt to London was scheduled to stop at Ostend Airport but diverted to Steene Aerodrome due to the 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 child were found among the wreckage; a Belgian official enquiry into the crash indicated that the birth was the reason the pilot was attempting to land despite the poor weather conditions.[3][4]

Crew and passengers[edit]

The aircraft had a crew of four: pilot, wireless operator and mechanic as well as a German engineer.[2]

The members of royalty among the passengers were:[2]


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


The wedding of 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.[5][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.[6]

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.

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 (47845). London. 18 November 1937. p. 14.
  2. ^ a b c d e "A Tragic Air Crash - Eleven Dead". The Times (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 Hesse – Time Magazine
  5. ^ "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.
  6. ^ Duff (1979)

External links[edit]