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Princess Anne: “I’m astonished at how little is known about Quintinshill”

On the 100th anniversary of the United Kingdom’s worst train disaster, a memorial service was held in the honour of those who lost their lives.

Among those in attendance were The Princess Royal, Princess Anne, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister and veterans and soldiers of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. Also at the memorial service were family members of the victims and survivors, most of who were soldiers, came together to remember the 227 lives taken at the Gretna rail disaster at Quintinshill.

The service consisted of psalms, prayers, hymns, and moments of silence followed by the Last Posts. The seriousness of the incident came back to light during the two services that took place in the Gretna Green Visitors’ Centre car park and next to the railway tracks adjacent to the Quintinshill Bridge.

A wreath of white lilies, roses, carnations and Shasta daisies was laid at the Royal Scots memorial cairn by Princess Anne, patron of The Scots Association. A personal moment of silence and a bow in memory of 22 May 1915 followed.

That spring morning, a train that carried soldiers from the 7th Battalion Royal Scots Territorial Force struck another passenger train headed to Beattock, which was at a stand-still. No less than a minute later the situation escalated when an express train on its way to Glasgow tore into the existing crash, starting a fire that lasted for 23 hours.

Of the 227 killed, 214 of those who perished were soldiers. The troops were on their way to Liverpool, where they were scheduled to sail to the frontline of the war in Gallipoli.

The service brought people from across Scotland, England and abroad. Amy Biggers from New Jersey, U.S.A travelled for the occasion as her grandfather, John (Jack) Biggers, was one of the survivors of the crash and told her about it often.

Biggers said: “I’m so thankful to everybody for this beautiful service. It means the world to me, it really does. I have been crying all day. Just to be here is beyond belief.”

Another descendant of a survivor, Malcolm, the grandson of John Milton, had no idea that his grandad had escaped the disaster. He only recognised him in a picture of survivors brought home by his son He explained to News & Star, saying:

“There’s no one else left alive of his relatives.”

“Almost every family in Leith was affected by this tragedy. The motto of Leith is ‘persevere’, and they did, but this is a reminder that we shouldn’t forget,” noted The Rev Iain May, the minister of South Leith Parish Church.

Featured Photo Credit: NHC_UHI via Flickr

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