b. 24/05/1945 Bradford, Yorkshire. d. 08/04/1968 London.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 08/04/1968 Heathrow Airport, London.
Barbara Jane Harrison (1945-1968), known as Jane, was born in Bradford, Yorkshire on 24th May 1945, the younger daughter of Alan Frederick and Lana Veronica Harrison (nee Adlard). Her older sister was called Susan Elizabeth. At the time of Jane’s birth, her father was a serving police officer. Sadly, Jane’s mother died when she was ten in 1955. She was educated at Newby County Primary School and then Scarborough High School for Girls. From September 1961, she attended Doncaster High School for Girls for 6 months. As a child, she was also a Brownie and then Girl Guide. On leaving school, Jane began working for Martin’s Bank in Doncaster.
Jane, however, was keen to see the world, and changed career and became a nanny, firstly in the USA and then Switzerland, before she moved to London. She then decided in June 1966, to join the BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) as a Stewardess in order to fly all over the world.
On 8th April 1968, at Heathrow Airport, when, soon after takeoff, the no 2 engine failed on her Boeing 707 and a few seconds later caught fire. The aircraft started to turn for an emergency landing when the engine fell from the aircraft. After landing, the fuel tanks in the port wing exploded. When the aircraft landed, Harrison and the steward opened the rear galley door and inflated the emergency exit chute, which became twisted. Chief Steward Neville Davis-Gordon had to climb down the chute to straighten it before he could be used. Once out of the aircraft, Davis-Gordon was unable to return, and Harrison was left alone to the task of shepherding passengers to the rear door and helping them out of the aircraft. She encouraged some passengers to jump from the aircraft and pushed others out. With flames and explosions all around her, and escape from the rear now impossible, she directed the passengers to another exit while she remained at her post. She was finally overcome while trying to save an elderly disabled passenger, who was seated in one of the last rows, and whose body was found close to that of the stewardess.
Jane Harrison was posthumously awarded the George Cross and Neville Davis-Gordon the British Empire Medal for their actions that day (London Gazette 7th August 1969). She was also the posthumous recipient of the Flight Safety Foundation Heroism Award in 1971. She was laid to rest in Fulford Cemetery in York. Her George Cross, originally presented to her father, eventually was sold at auction, and was purchased by British Airways. It is displayed at the British Airways’ Speedbird Centre in Harmondsworth, Middlesex.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: BRITISH AIRWAYS SPEEDBIRD CENTRE, HARMONDSWORTH, MIDDX.
BURIAL PLACE: FULFORD CEMETERY, YORK.
Terry Hissey – Image of Harrison GC’s grave in York.
British Airways – Image of the Harrison GC Medal.