The Quintinshill (Gretna) Rail Disaster

At 3:45am on 22 May 1915 a troop train carrying just under 500 men left Larbert Station bound for Liverpool. Just over 3 hours later, as many as 214 of those men were dead or dying; victims of the worst rail disaster in British history.

The soldiers on the train were officers and men of the A and D Companies of the 1/7th Royal Scots, a Territorial Battalion from Leith. They, along with fellow Territorials the 1/4th Royal Scots, had spent the previous few weeks encamped in the Tryst Ground just behind Ochiltree Park, the ground of Stenhousemuir F.C. Their train was the third of four trains which departed Larbert early that morning, carrying the 2 battalions to Liverpool where they were to be shipped out to join the Gallipoli Campaign.

At 6:49am that morning, their train crashed head first into a stationary local train at Quintinshill near Gretna. Shortly afterwards, the wreckage of their train, which was spread across both tracks, was struck by the northbound London-Glasgow Express. A huge fire ensued, caused by the rupture of the gas tanks used to fuel the lights on board the troop train. In total, it is thought that around 226 people lost their lives, of whom 219 were servicemen, with all but 5 of those serving with or attached to the 1/7th Royal Scots. 246 people were also injured. It remains to this day the worst rail disaster in British history.

The crash was found to have been a result of errors made by the signal men at Quintinshill. Of the three trains in the collision the troop train was most severely affected. This was because it was involved in 2 impacts and also because most of the carriages used in the train were obsolete. In the event of the crash, their flimsy wooden construction gave little protection to the occupants or, indeed, to the highly combustible gas stored in the base of the carriages.

The majority of the men killed in the crash were from Leith and Musselburgh which was the main recruiting area for the 1/7th Royal Scots Territorials. Also members of that battalion were the 5 men from the Falkirk district who lost their lives in the crash. These men, and the majority of the others from the battalion who were killed in the disaster, are buried in a communal grave at Rosebank Cemetery in Leith.

The 1/4th and 1/7th Royal Scots were camped in the Tryst Ground directly to the north of Ochilview Football Ground in Stenhousemuir for a few weeks prior to the Quintinshill Disaster.

Coverage in the Falkirk Herald

The Falkirk Herald provided extensive coverage of the Quintinshill Rail Disaster at the time of the incident.

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Last updated: 30 August 2016 at 13:56