SALUTE TO RAIL STAFF KILLED IN GREAT WAR
THEY were simple engine cleaners, rail motor conductors and wagon painters – but they all went on to become heroes in the fight for freedom.
More than 2,500 Great Western Railway workers who died during the Great War are being honoured with a train unveiling today.
The Intercity Express train, which will roll into London Paddington at 10.30am, will serve the Great Western main line.
It is being named after Flight Sub-Lieutenant Harold Day, the only railway man to become a flying ace, and Lance-Corporal Allan Leonard Lewis, awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery in Rossnoy, France.
But it will also feature the names of all workers who died during the conflict, including Lance-Sergeant Ernest Rudd and Private Edgar George Norton, both killed during the Battle of the Somme, Sergeant William Henry Hannaford and Private Harry Charles Western, killed at the Battle of Arras.
Lance-Sgt Rudd worked as a goods clerk in Southall before serving in the 1/8th Middlesex Regiment.
He was awarded the Military Medal for carrying a badlywounded man back to the trench. He was killed in action, aged 24, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
Great niece Claire Rudd, from Somerset, said: “Discovering he was killed on the first day of the bloodiest battle of the war has been difficult to comprehend. Reading his citation is incredibly moving, hearing of his bravery.”
Pte Norton worked in Swindon, as a wagon painter.
He was among 456 men in the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards killed in a German counter-attack on the Somme, on September 16, 1916.
His great niece Jean Moulton said: “I have always been so very proud of Great Uncle Edgar. This is incredibly moving for me, to now know that his name and picture is being carried on a train which will go right past the place he worked.”
Sgt Hannaford was rail motor conductor in Plymouth before joining up with the 10th Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He died on April 10, 1918.
His great niece Sandra Gittins said: “Finding out about him was the inspiration to research the GWR further. The role of the GWR in the build-up to World War I, what it achieved as a company, and what its employees achieved for this country is truly staggering.”
Pte Western was an engine cleaner in Exeter before joining the 8th Devonshire Regiment. He died on April 2, 1917, aged 21, during the Battle of Arras.
Great niece Jane Brook said: “I remember clearly the day when I found my great uncle’s name on the GWR Roll of Honour at the very place I now work. To have a train with his name on is amazing, I know he would be proud to see how the company is recognising him and the other fallen.”
Flight Sub-Lt Day was a premium apprentice at the Swindon Works.
From December 1917 to his death in February 1918, he cemented his status as an “ace”, securing more than 10 victories and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
And L/Cpl Lewis VS was a conductor on GWR buses in Wales. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for taking out two gun positions that were firing on his fellow servicemen.
The nine-carriage train will feature a roll of honour showing the names of those fallen workers. There will also be more information onboard, with pictures and background stories. This Sunday marks 100 years since the end of the First World War.
The role of the GWR in the build-up to World War I and what its employees achieved is truly staggering
Clockwise from top left: Private Edgar George Norton; Lance-Corporal Allan Leonard Lewis; LanceSergeant Ernest Rudd; Sergeant William Henry Hannaford; Private Harry Charles Western; Flight SubLieutenant Harold Day