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“The conventional quiet of this London suburb had been shattered”.
On Sunday 5 November 1967, the busy 7.43pm service from Hastings to Charing Cross hit a damaged rail, travelling at round 70mph. The entrance wheels on the third coach have been derailed, however the prepare ran for one more quarter of a mile — the wheels turning from purple to white scorching — till they hit a crossover lead on the factors, after which horror ensued.
“There was a giant flash,” mentioned signalman and witness Albert Harry Norman, “I noticed one of many coaches go straight up on its finish because the flash began. It was very black that night time and the wheels stood out.”
11 of the 12 carriages got here off the rails by the Hither Inexperienced upkeep depot in south-east London, spilling 4 of the coaches onto their facet, and tearing off the perimeters as in the event that they have been created from paper. The impact was devastating, made all the more severe by the truth that the prepare was packed out, with many passengers standing up within the corridors. “They have been clamped within the tangled plenty of steel,” says a matter-of-fact voice within the dramatic, orchestra-soaked British Pathe reviews that have been wont to observe tragedies like this. No less than 49 individuals died, with 78 extra injured.
One of many passengers to flee from the crash was the 17-year-old Bees Gees singer Robin Gibb; at that very second, the group having fun with their first UK primary with Massachussets. Gibb and his accomplice Molly Hullis have been travelling in a firstclass carriage, which Gibb later admitted “would possibly properly have saved us”. However whereas they solely suffered minor accidents, Gibb was very practically decapitated within the crash and admitted in 2012 that it nonetheless haunted him, writing: “Our carriage tilted to 1 facet after which damaged glass flew throughout us like Niagara Falls. I had lengthy hair, and the glass acquired tangled in it. It took me days afterwards to take away the shards.” Some who’d been standing within the corridors of Gibb’s carriage died. Hugh Whittard of the well-known tea model, who on the time was operating the enterprise together with his brother Dick, was killed within the crash.
A report that got here out just below a yr later blamed three rail officers for permitting trains to run at 90mph on observe that was sub-par. So far as loss of life toll is worried, it stays the sixth worst prepare crash to occur within the UK.