93rd anniversary of Charfield Rail Disaster
Posted on 14th October 2021 at 17:11
October 13th marks the 93rd anniversary of one of the worst rail accidents in Britain.
At 5.20am in 1928 on a foggy morning the Leeds to Bristol night mail train, which was also carrying passengers, was heading towards Bristol at around 60 mph but failed to stop at signals near the sidings at Charfield Railway Station. It collided with a freight train which was being shunted down the main line into the siding. The stricken train overturned and ended up near the road bridge when gas cylinders used to light the carriages were punctured and caught fire, gutting four of the coaches.
The noise of the collision alerted villagers who rushed to the scene to assist and help free some of the injured passengers. Graphic accounts of the event tell of one man thrown from the wreck onto the road bridge, but subsequently died in hospital. Within 20 minutes flames leapt 40-feet into the air over the crash site and took five hours to bring under control.
Sixteen people died in what has come to be known as the Charfield Rail Disaster, most as a result of the fire.
The remains of two children were found in the wreckage, and despite nationwide appeals, their identities were never discovered. A memorial in St James’ Church carries the names of the victims, and the inscription ‘Two Unknown’
Further mystery surrounds the event, as numerous tales recount a woman dressed in black visiting the memorial and laying flowers each year from the 1920s to the 1950s, always arriving in a chauffeur-driven limousine. Her identity has never been discovered.
An inquest subsequently laid the blame for the crash with the train driver for failing to stop at a signal, and the coroner recommended a verdict of manslaughter, but the trial of the driver did not proceed and he was discharged.
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