Bobbie Cyril Salter
Bobbie Cyril Salter

A violin belonging to a teenage airman has been played for the first time since his death in a crash more than 80 years ago.

Bobbie Cyril Salter was one of three men killed when his Bristol Blenheim Mk I fighter bomber went down near Colton in 1938.

A violin belonging to the 18-year-old has now been restored and played for the first time as part of a project by Dr Mike Sutton.

During the pandemic, he began purchasing and restoring old violins as well as researching the stories behind them.

Among them was Bobbie’s 1931 Christian Meisel model, which was bought in an online auction.

Dr Sutton said he was keen to honour the airman by allowing his violin and bow to be played once more.

Dr Mike Sutton with Bobbie's violin
Dr Mike Sutton with Bobbie’s violin

“Bobbie died in November 1938 preparing for the possible outbreak of war with Germany following the annexation of Czechoslovakia two months earlier.

“This is poignant today, given Russia has invaded Ukraine seeking to annex sovereign territory to become a superpower once again.

“I consulted with Bobbie’s family with some ideas in order to decide what song would be most appropriate.

“In October 1938, Judy Garland recorded Somewhere Over the Rainbow to be used in the film The Wizard of Oz – Bobbie’s family asked for it to be the first tune played on his violin since the tragic air crash.”

Dr Mike Sutton

In a video documenting the story on his website, Dr Sutton’s 13-year-old daughter Eleena fufilled the wishes of the young airman’s family.

Dr Mike Sutton’s video on the work to restore Bobbie Cyril Salter’s violin

As well as Bobbie, the 1938 crash also claimed the lives of Flying Officer Robert Duncan Tate, 23, and Corporal Headley George Kennett, 27.

They were flying between Wyton and Aldersgrove in Northern Ireland when the aircraft crashed into allotments.

A coroner’s report at the time said all three had been “killed instantaneously”.

Later evidence showed that a fire onboard had caused the pilot to lose control and stall the aircraft.

“A mobile memorial to servicemen and women”

Dr Sutton said he hoped to the instrument could now be used to remember those who have fallen while serving their country, as well as helping to raise funds for causes such as helping those fleeing war in Ukraine.

“My daughter, Eleena is now the owner and custodian of Bobbie’s violin, but if it can be borrowed and played in the future by others that would be a good thing. 

“I would like Bobbie’s violin to serve as some kind of mobile memorial to servicemen and women who die in the service of their country – they are not all classified as war heroes but their service is just as important.  

“If it can raise funds for those harmed by war I would be very pleased to see it played by other violinists with that goal in mind.”

Dr Mike Sutton
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1 year ago

Well done Dr Sutton. I hope other violinists will take up your offer.