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Remembered Today:

Quintinshill fact or sensationalism?


roughdiamond

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I know seaJane has already posted about the upcoming BBC documentary about the Quintinshill disaster on the "Culture Pages" but a couple of quotes from retired Col Robert Watson Royal Scots struck me as sensationalism with little basis in fact.

Tthe first http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-32710602 claiming "probable mercy killings", they were on a train to catch a ship to Gallipoli, not on a train through France, would anyone on that train actually have had ammunition other than possibly Officers with private sidearms?

I notice the piece does state "This section of the interview will not feature in the documentary" I wonder why?

The second quote by Col Watson was published in yesterdays "Sunday Mail" newspaper and states:

"Many of the victims would have been boys as young as 15 who lied about their age to join up"?

Really? A quick check of the CWGC site shows that of those with a recorded age there is a 16 year old, 1447 Bugler John Malone and 11 x 17 year olds.

Col Watson seems to have a bent for an eye catching quote, pity he seems to lack the facts to back it.

Sam

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I've not seen the Sunday Mail article, but to be fair to Colonel Watson, in the BBC article above he freely acknowledges that the subject of mercy killings wasn't formally documented, and that his '...own personal belief is that it probably did happen, in a sense of compassion...'

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There is a book about a 'conspiracy' over this (Pen and Sword Books though I don't know the author's name). It was in The Works shop in Neath last week. I didn't really look at it but it seemed quite detailed and had footnotes which is a good start... just Google 'Quintinshill Conspiracy' and it should pop up to buy...

Bernard

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It is some time since I read up on Quintinshill Accident but I am sure the accident report included mention ofdifficulties for rescuers because of live ammunition cooking off. This could have been as. Rough Diamond suggests. from Officers personal revolvers but I am sure report mentions the Royal Scots rank and file had been issued ammunition for their SMLE's. This could have been believed by some that mercy killings and possibly suicide to avoid being burned to death occurred.

I believe the NRM at York will have a copy of the accident reporting in their archive. Railway accident reports at that time were usually carried out by a senior officer, Colonel or Lt Col. either serving or retired from Royal Engineers.

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There are three particularly significant factors in the death toll, IMO.

  1. the carriage doors were all locked to prevent men from going AWOL should the train stop at any point along the route
  2. a majority of trains of the period were lit by the Pintsch pressurised gas system and a ruptured tank would quickly increase the rapidity of burning. An intact tank would be an explosive risk.
  3. carriages were all wooden-bodied.

Once the inevitable fires started the result was a foregone conclusion.

Keith

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I believe the NRM at York will have a copy of the accident reporting in their archive. Railway accident reports at that time were usually carried out by a senior officer, Colonel or Lt Col. either serving or retired from Royal Engineers.

Anyone interested here's the accident report including witness statements and conclusions http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/documents/BoT_Quin1915.pdf prepared by Lt/Col E. Druitt Royal Engineers.

Sam

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Anyone interested here's the accident report including witness statements and conclusions http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/documents/BoT_Quin1915.pdf prepared by Lt/Col E. Druitt Royal Engineers.

Sam

Not the full report but it is interesting that there were 242 passengers and three SERVANTS killed. I assume these three would be servants of passengers on the Down(London to Scotland) sleeper train, unless they were officers servants

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Weren't railway employees known as 'servants' at one time?

Yes, it refers to servants of the Railway.

Sam

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but I am sure report mentions the Royal Scots rank and file had been issued ammunition for their SMLE's.

If you notice on page 16 of the report (page 12 of the attachment) Lt J. C. Bell 7th RS states "There was no loose ammunition on the train as far as I know but I think some of the boxes must have got broken as I saw some lying about afterwards". Most likely boxed Coy ammunition that would have been burst open during the collision so looks as if they hadn't been issued it, however, nothing to stop men picking it up, charging their rifles and using them.

Also Gretna Station Master Alexander Thorburn states on page 20 of the document (page 16 of the attachment) "I also attached the 5 vehicles off the rear of the troop train which consisted of vehicles containing machine guns, ammuntion vans and the brake vans".

Sam

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