Reflecting on a Research Trip to Paris: The Concorde Memorials

Last week I took a two-day trip to Paris for research. There were a number of elements to the trip, and I am going to do a series of posts relating to each of them and this is the second (after the one about my visit to the National Library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France). Although this is the second post in the series, it was actually the third main thing that I did, doing it on the second day I was in Paris, but as it was the other thing for which I got research funding, it seems appropriate to do this one before covering the second activity.

Back in 2010, as part of my research about the JL123 plane crash, I flew via Paris CDG from Cardiff to Japan for a fieldwork trip there. Going via CDG was deliberate so that I could go and visit the crash site and memorial for AF4590, better known as the Concorde crash. You can read more about that visit in the post Remembering the Concorde Flight AF4590 Crash. That visit had been very useful in seeing how a non-Japanese accident was memorialised, and a photograph taken during that visit was included in my book Dealing with Disaster in Japan: Responses to the Flight JL123 Crash.

As noted in the previous post about the Concorde crash and memorial, what I hadn’t realised back in 2010 was that there was a second memorial related to the crash. While working on my article about the modifications made to one of the memorials of the flight JL123 crash, I was interested to discover that there had been a modification to memorialisation of the crash. Although this memorial had been established in 2006, I wasn’t aware of it when I went via CDG in 2010. After an initial trip to Paris in April 2020 was cancelled due to COVID-19, last week’s trip finally gave me the opportunity to visit the second memorial.

Rather than take a taxi as I did in 2010, this time I hired a car. The person handling my booking when I picked up the car seemed surprised that I only needed a car for a few hours – most people were picking up a car for several hours (with many seemingly on their way to Disneyland). I explained that I was just doing some research around the airport – which also seemingly satisfied her that there would be enough charge in the all-electric car that I had. Whatever her surprise had been at me only needing a few hours, it wasn’t as great as when, as I got into my car, the person who had been behind me in the queue called out to me and wished me good luck with my research. I’m not sure how they had heard what I had said at the booking desk, but it was still a lovely little boost to start off the day.

My first stop was the Concorde memorial that I had visited in 2010. I will just include the one picture. The site hasn’t changed that much and there isn’t anything additional to add to the comments and observations made in the original post or in Dealing with Disaster in Japan: Responses to the Flight JL123 Crash.

On my way to the crash site, I had gone by a preserved Concorde. Although I knew there was one at the airport and I hadn’t planned on going to look at it, I decided that it was too good an opportunity to miss, so after going to the crash site, I back-tracked to the airport to get a picture of the Concorde. I probably shouldn’t have bothered. It is not set up for people to see from the road/paths, but from planes taxiing around the airport. In the end, the only shots I managed to get were from a small road (where parking isn’t really allowed) of the back of the plane.

After this I drove to the second Concorde Memorial. I was pleased that there was some parking space available. But as soon as I stepped out of the car, I spotted a problem. The memorial was not only behind fencing, but also a gate – which was locked. This is not the first time that I have experienced something like this – it also happened when I visited the JL350 memorial near Haneda Airport.

In the end, the locked gate was not a major problem as I was still able to see the whole site without any problems, and, thanks to the powerful zoom on my main camera, I was able to get a clear photo of the signs and read the text on them.

I spent some time walking around most of the site (outside the fence), making observations, and taking photographs. Here are a selection of them…

A sign for passing motorists
The main memorial
The two signs. Unlike the text at the crash site, this one has three languages (most of the victims were German)
In this one you can just about make out how the small shrubs are used to make the shape of a Concorde

The only thing that I wasn’t able to observe for myself as I couldn’t get into the site is that the names of all the victims are included on plaques that run alongside the path that leads up to the main memorial (see this image from the site about the memorial).

Overall, I found the memorial very impressive. Of course, without doing further research, I cannot know whether the modification (in this case a new memorial being added) fits with the model that I proposed in my article about modifications made to public transport accident memorials, but that may yet be something that I revisit.

In case you are interested in visiting, here is a map of the sites (you can easily find them marked on Google maps also)

The crash site and original memorial in Genosse is marked with the orange marker near Parc de la Patte d’oie in the bottom left corner of the map. The second memorial is to the south of the airport, located on a publicly accessible periphery road. The plane, Concorde F-BVFF (this is its entry in Google maps), is located to the right of the wording for Paris Charles De Gaulle on the map, just where a road curves down to the left.

One final comment about the visit. Other than the disappointment of not being able to get into the site itself, the other disappointment was how the area around the site was being treated. By the gate itself there was a strong smell of urine, and, on the other side of the wall that leads up to the gate (that you can see in the left hand side of the first photo of the site), people have dumped rubbish. Although, in an academic sense, this provided an interesting additional observation about the site, I found the lack of respect being shown to those memorialised, their friends and family, and people and the environment more generally utterly shocking and despicable. This is something that I may return to in a final post about my visit to Paris at the end of the week.

To the victims of the disaster itself, may you rest in peace, and to their families and others caught up in the disaster, I wish you all well.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. dhtaylor53 says:

    I wonder if you could direct me to a resource that gives a passenger list of this tragic Concorde accident. I had heard that my German half-brother and his wife were on that flight. Thanks in advance for your help.

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    1. HoodCP says:

      Sorry, I don’t have a list & any search I do online would likely bring up the same results that you would find. As noted in my blog, it seems that there are memorial stones for all of the victims as the site, so if you can visit when the gate is unlocked, you would be able to walk around and check, but naturally it would be better to find a list somewhere online first.

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