Supplied by Steve Evans for Nuneaton Memories
IT was a ‘phone call at silly-o-clock that I vividly recall. Some time after 2am, the voice of my News Editor, Les Chamberlaine, stirred me from slumberland with the words: “Get to Trent Valley Station. There has been a train crash.”
That was in June 1975, a month and a year that I will never forget.
As a young reporter for the (then) Coventry Evening Telegraph’s Nuneaton office, some assignments are destined to remain forever etched on the soul.
All these years later, I still remain awe-struck at the magnificent response of the emergency services on that night and throughout the following day. The police, fire, ambulance services and staff at Manor and George Eliot hospitals, and not forgetting the Women’s Voluntary Service, worked a miracle of professionalism, dedication, compassion and care.
Five years earlier, there had been the formation of a Nuneaton Major Disaster Committee. Some scoffed. Others thought it was a waste of time, reasoning that Mound Jud would never erupt and cover Camp Hill in lava. But the foresight of that committee ensured that, come the day, come the hour, come the moment, a united response to tragedy was instinctive and well-drilled.
It is not every day that a town like Nuneaton wakes up to national TV and radio headlines of catastrophic enormity.
For many passengers on that overnight sleeper between Euston and Glasgow, the injuries sustained – physically and emotionally – would be life-changing. For a tragic few, it would be life-ending.
Six dead. Thirty-eight injured. That was the grim toll on the worst night in Nuneaton since the Luftwaffe rained terror on the town in 1941.
Many Nuneatonians in their 40s would probably not be aware of the rail disaster, but my generation recall it with vivid recollection of the night an engine arched up into the platform roof and the carriages snaked and scewed and solemly came to rest amid carnage.
I would like to pay tribute to Nuneaton Memories
and especially its founder Mark Palmer for organising an appeal to finance a memorial to a tragic night in our history. Mark and his fellow volunteers, and a legion of devotees, regularly honour our town by posting website images of Nuneaton as it is now. After all, today will soon be yesterday, and yesterday will soon be last week, and this year will soon be last year. Nuneaton Memories is archiving a legacy for our grandchildren. I salute the group and I particularly salute Mark Palmer.
But arguably the most tangible legacy will be the memorial being unveiled at Trent Valley Station at 3pm on Sunday, August 9th.
I will be there. Head bowed in memory of those six souls who never made it to Glasgow and whose lives were ended in a town called Nuneaton.