Hastings deputy mayor joins service in memory of Hither Green train crash victims

Cllr Sinden lights a candle in memory of the victims
Cllr Sinden lights a candle in memory of the victims

A memorial service was held to honour the victims of one of the country’s worst rail disasters.

Cllr Nigel Sinden, deputy mayor of Hastings, represented the town and council at the event, held at St Mildred’s Church in Lee in south east London, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Hither Green train crash.

A total of 49 passengers, which included a number from Hastings, were killed when the 19:43 Hastings to Charing Cross 12-car diesel train derailed between Hither Green and Grove Park stations, near the Southern Region Continental goods depot, at just after 9.15pm on November 5, 1967.

More than 70 were also injured in the disaster.

It remains one of the worst train crashes in British railway history, and the worst involving a Hastings train.

Many of the carriages were full with standing passengers and 11 of the 12 carriages were derailed.

The six Hastings passengers to lose their lives were named as Janet Bartlett, aged 18; Veronica Chevallier, aged 34; Flight-Lieut. William Thomson, aged 28; Betty Lewis, aged 26; Jacqueline Hazard, aged 20; and Richard Spencer, aged 21.

Among the survivors were singer Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees and his wife-to-be Molly.

The derailment was found to be due to a broken rail. A report by the Ministry of Transport criticised the maintenance of the line, especially following a recent increase of the maximum speed of trains over the route.

Following the accident the maintenance of the line was improved.

The disaster happened just over a mile from the scene of the Lewisham train crash in 1957 in which 90 people were killed.

Cllr Sinden said: “I was honoured to be able to attend this memorial service, and meet the relatives of some of those killed 50 years ago.

“The pictures of the crash showed just how serious it was, it was sobering to think that an everyday journey turned into such a disaster.

“The derailment, caused by a broken rail, led to improvements in how the railways were maintained, and helped speed up the introduction of more modern track and better maintenance.

“I was pleased to be able to pay my respects, and represent Hastings at the memorial event.”