The Quintinshill Conspiracy, subtitled ‘The Shocking True Story Behind Britain’s Worst Rail Disaster’, is a comprehensive in-depth look into the horrendous 1915 crash involving five trains that took place at an isolated signal box on the West Coast main line from London to Glasgow, half a mile north-west of Gretna.
At this time the railways were particularly busy as they were utilised to transport troops and supplies.
One of the trains involved and the one that suffered the worst losses was a troop train carrying Scottish soldiers and bound for the Gallipoli campaign. In all 230 people were killed in the crash and 246 injured, including many civilians, women and children.
However, this book goes further than simply telling the tale of the carnage that ensued on that fateful day. The authors have set out to prove that although it was the signalmen who were on duty that day that were blamed and imprisoned for the negligence that led to the crash, that there were many other reasons that have previously been hidden from view in classifi ed documents.
The events leading up to the crash are re-examined, as are the collision and aftermath, with the additional knowledge provided by the information in these previously classifi ed documents.
This gives an altogether new perspective to the investigation into the accident.
The authors acknowledge that the signalmen were partly to blame for the crash but also state that problems with the train itself, the railway company and management and Asquith’s government all had a part to play in the tragedy. In what seems to be the way for so many conspiracy theories, the authors seem to repeat the same points in order to drive home their argument.
However, the argument certainly does seem to be a valid one and it would appear that signalmen Meakin and Tinsley were to a certain extent made scapegoats in order to cover up the failings of the other players in the tragic story.
Although the story of Quintinshill makes for difficult reading and the truth about the ultimate cause of the crash will probably never be known, this is a well researched and written book on the worst rail disaster in the long history of Britain’s rail network.
The Quintinshill Conspiracy, by Jack Richards and Adrian Searle, published by Pen and Sword, £25.