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Village History

The wood where ‘love is greater than war’

Posted on June 18 2010 at 9:19:14 0 comments

Peter Biddulph in Flora's Wood

The effects of Britain’s worst terrorist atrocity will never be forgotten in a corner of Burcot.

As you drive down the A38 towards Bromsgrove, few will know that just beyond the golf centre is a tiny piece of England that forms part of the international conflict that for almost a century has troubled the Middle East. 

The Lockerbie bombing took place on December 21 1988, in another century and another millennium, and Bromsgrove holds part of that history in the poignant shape of Flora’s Wood, a tiny 300 by 200-yard forest.

It is the labour of love of former Bromsgrove GP Dr Jim Swire; a way for him to ensure the memory of his daughter, who died at Lockerbie, lives on.

Jim Swire

He says: “Two hundred and seventy innocents were murdered on Pan Am flight 103. The loss of our daughter Flora burned itself into our souls. I had to find some way of rebuilding my life and find out who murdered her and why.

“Flora’s Wood was one of my coping mechanisms. At that time we lived at Caspidge House in Burcot. I’d had fifteen hundred trees ready for planting.

“At first I couldn’t raise a hand. Nothing seemed to matter any more. Then I started to drag the bundles of saplings down to a large field near to our home,” he explains.

“Each day I grew more determined. I planted 4,500 trees including 250 English oaks, and laid them out in the shape of a big capital F.

“I wanted it to be seen from space; a statement that love is greater than war.”

Flora Swire

Jim’s 22-year campaign has also seen him co-writing Moving the World: The Human Face of Lockerbie with local writer and Lickey resident Peter Biddulph. The as-yet unpublished book now forms the basis of a play at this summer’s Edinburgh Fringe. Lockerbie: Unfinished Business is a one-man show written and performed by the prominent actor David Benson.

It follows an entirely separate June production at the Nottingham Playhouse, Families of Lockerbie, developed by the playwright Michael Eaton, which featured the Lockerbie story as seen by other relatives of the bereaved.

These attempts to get to the bottom of what really happened through drama are welcomed by Jim and Peter.

After watching the Nottingham production, with which he’d had no connection, Jim said it had a similar impact to the “play within a play” in Hamlet, where the prince tries to flush out the truth using dramatisation.

Peter Biddulph, a former NHS administrator, met Jim in 2000, just as the Lockerbie trial was coming to an end. The judgment of the court was that a Libyan security officer, Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, was guilty of the attack. But Jim believed matters were not so straightforward. He’d sat through the entire trial, watched all 400 witnesses and looked at all the evidence. 

“When I first talked to Jim,” says Peter, “I couldn’t believe that no one had come forward to write his story.  So I called by one day, met Jim’s wife Jane, and they trusted me. A week later, I sat down with Jim and a tape recorder and he started to pour out his amazing tale.

“Ten days later, while I was on the internet, unknown persons accessed my computer and copied every one of my data files. I knew then that something odd was going on, and decided that the entire history had to be researched in the interests of truth.”

Moving the World examines events long before the bombing and the trial, and studies the evidence chain. It also analyses key data produced in the trial and the political background.

Peter is convinced that, all along, the investigation and evidence has been driven by the transatlantic relationship with America and that there is a serious probability of a miscarriage of justice.

The co-written book also contains revelations that emerged in 2008 only after a three-year investigation by the independent Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission. In 2009 it recommended that a second appeal be held with the view that a miscarriage of justice might well have occurred. 

But al-Megrahi contracted cancer and was offered the chance to return to Tripoli to die in the company of his family, on condition that he dropped his second appeal. 

“There’s serious new evidence that would have gone before the second appeal,” says Jim, who believes that, had they been aware of it, the original judges would have come to a different verdict. 

Peter adds that the only hard evidence – a fragment of a printed circuit board – that pointed to al-Megrahi being the man who made and planted the bomb had been proved by a highly respected expert on explosives to have been an impossibility. 

They have yet to find a publisher for their book – “You may be absolutely correct in what you write, but you will go bankrupt proving it,” says Peter –  but believe that it will one day be available for all to read.

In the meantime, the oaks of Flora’s Wood grow bigger and stronger, and will be around long after the human protagonists of this tragedy are gone.

For Jim and Peter’s website, go to:

And here’s a Google view of Flora’s Wood . . .


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