THE BERE FERRERS RAIL ACCIDENT
24 SEPTEMBER 1917
On Monday 24 September 1917, ten New Zealand soldiers were killed, and two were injured when they alighted from a troop train at the Bere Ferrers station, near Plymouth in South Devon.
The NZEF 28th Reinforcement's two troopships Ulimaroa and Norman had just arrived at Plymouth Sound from New Zealand, and were en-route from the docks to Sling Camp on the Salisbury Plains when the tragedy occured. The men were struck by the west-bound express from Waterloo to Plymouth. (NZ Genealogist Vol 39 No 310 Mar/Apr 2008 p75)
According to the inquest, - "The evidence showed that the men were travelling in a troop train which was pulled up at Bere Ferrers station, the line ahead being blocked. The soldiers had been told that on arrival at Exeter, which was expected to be the first stop, two men from each compartment were to get out and draw rations from the brake van. When the train pulled up at Bere Ferrers, and almost before it had come to a stand, a number of men jumped on to the line, apparently under the impression that they had arrived at the stopping place of which they had been told. Almost immediately an express train from Waterloo to Plymouth dashed through the station and the men on the line were struck down."
Nine New Zealand soldiers were killed instantly. One, W J TRUSSELL died later at the Tavistock Hospital. The ten are buried at the Plymouth (Efford) Cemetery and each have a Commonwealth War Graves headstone.
Parishoners of Bere Ferrers subscribed to brass "tablet" which was unveiled at a memorial service in St Andrew's Church (built in 1333)a year later by the Bishop of Exeter, Lord William Cecil, who had lost three sons in action. The church rector, James Sharpe, who attended the accident, later accepted a New Zealand flag donated by the New Zealand Government, to hang in the church.(NZ Genealogist Vol 39 No 310 Mar/Apr 2008 p75). A plaque was also erected at the Bere Ferrers railway station.
|GILLANDERS||William Simon||Rifleman||55050||36 years|
|GREAVES||William Frederick||Rifleman||57068||31 years|
|JACKSON||John Stanley||Private||55753||20 years|
|KIRTON||Chudleigh Inwood||Rifleman||56795||21 years|
|McBRYDE||Baron Archibald Wilson||Private||55776||24 years|
|McKENNA||Richard Vincent||Rifleman||57122||20 years|
|TRUSSELL||William John||Rifleman||56874||28 years|
|WEST||Sidney Ennis||Private||54624||21 years|
The memorial erected at the Bere Ferrers railway station. A nearby plaque reads
See Marking centenaryof tragic rail accident at Bere Ferrers - Tavistock Times Gazette 26 September 2017.
There is also a memorial to the New Zealand boys beside the Bere Ferrers town war memorial and a bronze plaque beside the New Zealand flag in the church.
See also Auckland Weekly News
27 SEPTEMBER 1917 and 04 OCTOBER 1917.
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