GWR honours WW1 fallen workers with specially commissioned Armistice train
Great Western Railway is marking 100 years since the end of the Great War with a special ceremony to commemorate the 2,545 railway workers who were lost in battle. The centrepiece of the ceremony at Paddington Station on Friday 9 November will be the unveiling of a special Intercity Express Train featuring the names of all 2,545 men who worked for the GWR and were killed during the war.
Those being remembered worked in all areas of the company; engineers, labourers, solicitors, carriage cleaners and apprentices from across the GWR network which at the time stretched from Paddington to Penzance, and as far north as Liverpool, Manchester, Chester, Birmingham and Wolverhampton.
The train will be welcomed into Platform 1 at 10:30 by the Wessex Male Voice Choir before a short ceremony which will include family members of those being remembered.
After the ceremony, the train will enter passenger service as the 11:36 from Paddington to Cheltenham Spa.
To recognise the dedication and number of lives lost, the full train is being given a distinctive design, stretching along all nine carriages and including the driving cabs at either end. It includes details of where each fallen employee worked for the company, their rank, regiment, where they were killed and where they are either remembered or buried.
One hundred names have been chosen to feature pictures and more details of their story.
The train will also be named after two men, Flight Sub-Lieutenant Harold Day, D.S.C. and Lance-Corporal Allan Leonard Lewis, V.C.
Flight Sub-Lieutenant Harold Day D.S.C.
Born in Abergavenny, he joined the GWR as a Premium Apprentice at the Swindon Works. In January 1917 he joined the Royal Naval Air Service, just prior to his 19th birthday. His ability as a fighter pilot was proved with his first victory in August that year and between December 1917 and his death in February 1918 his status as an Ace was guaranteed with a further 10 victories. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
Immediately after his last victory on the 5th February 1918, his Sopwith Camel N6379 collapsed in the air while diving on enemy aircraft at excessive speed, and crashed at Harnes. German fighter pilot, Gunter Schuster, was quick to claim Harold Day as his victory. Flight Sub-Lieut Day is buried at St Mary’s A.D.S. Cemetery, Haisnes, France
Lance-Corporal Allan Leonard Lewis V.C.
Although Allan Lewis was born Whitney-on-Wye (in Herefordshire very near the Welsh border), one of nine children, he had left school at thirteen to work on the land, eventually becoming a gardener at Truscoed House near Llandeilo in West Wales.
Lewis always enjoyed working with machines, though, and this led to him becoming an employee of the Great Western Railway. He moved to Neath, and, after a period as a conductor, he drove a GWR bus on the Pontardawe route.
Lewis joined the army in Neath in March 1915. On 18 September 1918 at Rossnoy, near Lempire in France, Lance-Corporal Lewis was in command of a section on the right of the attacking line, held up by intense machine-gun fire. He saw that two guns were enfilading the line and crawled forward alone, successfully bombed the guns and by rifle fire made the whole team surrender. On 21 September he rushed his company through the enemy barrage but was killed while getting his men under cover from heavy machine-gun fire.
In addition, a newly commissioned Roll of Honour marking the names of the 2,545 will be unveiled in a permanent location at the station.
Present for the ceremony will be relatives of both Harold Day and Allan Leonard Lewis, along with relatives for four other GWR men:
Ø Ernest Rudd who worked at Southall and was killed on the first day of the Somme
Ø Edgar Norton who was at the Swindon works and was killed at the end of the Somme
Ø William Hannaford who worked at Plymouth and was in the Devonshire Regiment killed in 1917 the day before his younger brother was also killed
Ø Harry Western who worked at Exeter and was killed at the Battle of Arras. His great niece works for GWR today.
Ernest Henry John Rudd.
Goods Clerk at Southall, a Lance Sergeant in the 1/8th Middlesex Regiment. Awarded the Military Medal for carrying out essential work under fire, and carrying a badly wounded man back to the trench. He was killed in action aged 24 during an attack at Gommecourt on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He has no known grave and is commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial.
Edgar George Norton.
Wagon Painter at the Swindon works, served as a Private in the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards. After a successful assault on German lines they came under heavy and sustained shell fire. When the battalion was relieved they had lost 456 men either killed, wounded or missing. Edgar was killed on the 16th September 1916, aged 31 and is buried in Seville Wood Cemetery.
William Henry Hannaford.
Rail Motor Conductor at Plymouth, served as a Sergeant in the 5th Devonshire Regiment. He was posted to the 10th Royal Warwickshire Regiment in March 1918, but weeks later was killed on the 10th April 1918 aged 25. He has no known grave and is commemorated at the Tyne Cot Memorial. His younger brother, Albert, was killed a day later, aged 19.
Harry Charles Western.
Engine Cleaner at Exeter, he was a Private in the 8th Devonshire Regiment. In April 1917 during the Battle of Arras, t
Other Soldiers featured on the train are:
Ø William and Ernest Leggett. Ernest cradled his dying brother before being killed himself just three months later
Ø William Saloway who was serving on board HMS Hampshire when it hit a mine killing nearly all on board including Field Marshall Lord Kitchener
Ø Joseph Godwin, served with the 10th West Yorkshire Regiment who suffered the most casualties on the first day of the Somme
Ø Edwin Gomm, the first GWR man to be killed
Ø Thomas Cruise, the last GWR man to be killed
During the Great War 25,479 GWR employees – a third of the workforce – enlisted despite the fact that the majority of railway workers were not required to as a Reserved Occupation. It is estimated that over 20,000 railway workers from across the UK lost their lives in the conflict.