Fitting tribute paid to rail disaster victims - 100 years on

Seventeen people who lost their lives in the Bede rail disaster have been honoured on the 100th anniversary of the train tragedy.
Seventeen people who lost their lives in the Bede rail disaster have been honoured on the 100th anniversary of the train tragedy.

A fitting tribute has finally being paid to the 'forgotten' victims of a South Tyneside rail disaster - a century on from the tragedy.

Seventeen lives were cruelly cut short and another 81 people were injured in a horror rail crash involving three trains at St Bede's Junction on December 17, 1915.

John Caffery, whose grandfather was injured in the crash, looks on at the roll call of names finally recognised due to his tireless research.

John Caffery, whose grandfather was injured in the crash, looks on at the roll call of names finally recognised due to his tireless research.

Fifteen of those killed were buried in a mass grave at Harton Cemetery, South Shields, but the headstone carried the names of just three soldiers who died in the crash - adding solemnly that 12 civilians also perished.

But now the previously unidentified dozen have been honoured - after a memorial stone was installed during a service at Harton Cemetery this morning on the milestone 100th anniversary of the crash.

A poignant dedication was conducted by the Reverend Gillian Maude, with community members involved in organising the memorial joining relatives of the victims of the disaster and the Mayor and Mayoress of South Tyneside at the ceremony.

The memorial has been installed thanks to funding from HVR International Ltd, based on Bede Trading Estate. close to where the accident took place.

The Bede rail disaster claimed 17 lives and left 81 injured after a horror crash between three trains.

The Bede rail disaster claimed 17 lives and left 81 injured after a horror crash between three trains.

Steve Elliot of HVR organised the funding and installation along with John Caffery, whose grandfather was among those injured in the crash, after attending an audio drama and an exhibition which both chronicled the tragic events of a century ago.

On a foggy day in December, 1915, a goods train, a tank engine and a passenger train came into collision on the rail route at St Bede’s Junction – on what is now the section between Jarrow to Bede Metro stations.

Many died as the result of a fire partially caused by the provision of gas lighting in the passenger train’s carriage.

Mr Caffery carried out painstaking research into the crash and identified those that died as well as many of the 81 injured, including his own grandfather Thomas - in order that those who lost their lives could finally be recognised after being 'airbrushed out of history' for so long.

Mr Caffery, speaking before the memorial was funded, said; "It’s as if these people have been airbrushed out of history and I wanted them to have some recognition after all these years. They are in a Commonwealth grave with the name of three civilians and at the bottom, almost as an afterthought, it says ‘plus 12 civilians’. I feel they deserve better than that.”

The exhibition in Jarrow Hall at Bede’s World includes a model recreation of the train crash produced by the A19 Model Railway Club.

The audio drama written by Lilly Moon and Lorna Windham, was produced and broadcast by Hive Radio based at Bede’s World is being broadcast throughout the day to mark the milestone.

Diane Gray, Community Development Manager at Hive community radio and artists studio, based at Bede's World, said: "This was a community project, involving volunteers from the local community acting in the play. A unique piece of artwork was created by local artist Stephen Pratt as a logo for the audio drama, and will now also be part of the memorial. Local musician Ben Hudson has written and performed a new folk song called Waiting for the 7:05 based on the play and the accident.