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The Upchurch Rail Crash

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posted on 2024-06-05, 19:13 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

The Upchurch rail crash is my very first memory. I was eighteen months old, sitting outside Faversham Station, sitting on the kerb with my feet in the gutter, waiting and waiting for the train.

I was on the 3.15pm train from Ramsgate with my mother. We joined the train at Faversham after spending the day at Sheerness. Although I was only eighteen months old, I remember sitting outside Newington Station, waiting for a long time until the buses came and took us to Rainham Station, but that's all.

My father worked at Chatham Dockyard and saw the fire engines and ambulances streaming out of the Dockyard. There were rumours starting to fly around that a train had been derailed on the London-Dover line. But no one knew if it was the up train going to London, or the down train coming back from London.

My father knew that his wife, daughter, two sisters, and niece and nephew would have been on the up train. His brothers-in-law, who were in civilian occupations, would have not known anything about it, until their wives told them about it when they got home that night.

My father couldn't stop work, there were no mobile phones, and he couldn't turn on the radio. He couldn't leave to rush off to the scene.

I don't know how long he had to wait until he heard that it was the down train that crashed, and that the up train had been stopped in time. But I hate to think of how he endured the waiting, just trying to carry on with his work I suppose. It took him about half an hour to cycle home from the Dockyard, and the relief he must have felt when he finally got home must have been huge!

The rail crash was in August 1944, and was caused by a flying bomb that hit the bridge on the down side. The engine and part of the carriages crossed the bridge, which collapsed under the weight of it.

The train's fireman, David Humphreys, ran to warn others about the accident and prevented the 3.15pm rain from Ramsgate to Victoria from ploughing into the wreckage. The fireman was injured, so his efforts were remarkable really.


Person the story/items relate to

Angela Susan White, William Watson

Person who shared the story/items

Angela Susan White

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

Angela Susan White is the contributor. William Watson is her father.

Type of submission

Shared at Medway Archives Centre, Kent on 8 November 2023.

Record ID

96542 | MED007b