Topic: Rifleman William Simon Gillanders
A soldier of the Great War killed in an accident at Bere Ferrers Railway Station, England.
Rifleman William Simon Gillanders - 55050
William was born at Darfield on 3rd June 1881, youngest son of Hector and May Gillanders. He was educated at Darfield and Christchurch, and was for some time in the office of the Christchurch Press Company. He was engaged in farming at Waddington until he bought the Cotswold Hills run in North Canterbury, where he was a sheep farmer. He was married to Mary Anne, the youngest daughter of the William Reid, three months prior to enlisting on 6th December 1916. He was highly esteemed as a man of sterling character, a good neighbour, and a true friend. He was 5ft 7in tall with a dark complexion, blue eyes and black hair.
William enlisted 9th February 1917 and was assigned to the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 28th Reinforcements, J Company. He embarked on 26th July 1917 on board the Ulimaroa for England. He arrived in Devonport on 24th September and was killed in accident en-route from Devonport to Sling Camp on the same day, aged 36. He was one of 10 soldiers killed when they alighted from the Troop train at Bere Ferrers mistaking it for the planned stop at Exeter where food was to be distributed. Some of the soldiers were standing on the down-line track just as the Waterloo -to- Plymouth Express rounded the sharp curve on its entry into Bere Ferrers about 3.50 pm. Nine soldiers died instantly and another died the following morning in Tavistock Hospital. The inquest revealed that the men had got out of the train in the wrong side simply because they had assumed the door of entry was the correct door to exit by. He and the other New Zealanders killed in the Devon railway disaster were buried in the Corporation Cemetery at Egg Buckland, outside Plymouth. Anglican, Catholic & Presbyterian services were read and the funeral was attended by a party of New Zealanders and garrison troops. The graves are situated in various denominational sections but all are within a small radius. A brass memorial plaque was also erected in the church of St Andrew at Bere Ferrrers and a New Zealand flag hangs from the wall beside the memorial, a gift from High Commissioner Bryce Harland in 1989. There is also a stone slab commemorating the soldiers on the plinth of the village war memorial, a few steps from the churchyard. In New Zealand William is remembered on the Malvern County and Sheffield War Memorials.
Researched and written by L M Seaton.
Bere Ferrers Railway Station accident: Ten privates, serving in the 1NZEF (28th Reinforcements) were killed in Bere Ferrers Railway Station while getting out of the Troop Train on September 24 1917. They had just landed at Plymouth and were on their way to join their comrades on Salisbury Plain for preliminary training.
The accident happened when a trainful of NZ troops who had just arrived in the country left Friary Station, Plymouth at 3pm. At 3.50 the train approached Bere Ferrers. The soldiers were raw, sick, tired and above all hungry, having eaten breakfast at 6am. They had been told that food would be provided on the journey. The arrangement was that when the train made its first stop at Exeter, two men from each carriage would carry provisions from the brake-van together with cups of tea and buns provided by the Mayoress' Comforts Fund. When the train made an unscheduled stop at Bere Ferrers, men in the rear section of the train decided that this must be Exeter, and breaking the rule of two from each carriage, jumped down. Some of them spilled onto the down-line track, just as the Waterloo -to- Plymouth Express rounded the sharp curve on its entry into Bere Ferrers. Although the fireman shouted a warning, and the train driver applied the brakes, the train pulled up about 400m beyond the station. Nine soldiers died instantly and another died the following morning in Tavistock Hospital. The inquest revealed that the men had got out of the train in the wrong side simply because they had assumed the door of entry was the correct door to exit by. Information was supplied by Mrs Kyle (England).
CWGC Cemetery locale history: During the First World War, Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse contained between them the Royal Dockyard, Royal Naval Barracks (known as H.M.S. Vivid), the Royal Marine Barracks of the Plymouth Division, and naval and military hospitals. For the duration of the war, Devonport was made headquarters of the Auxiliary Patrol Area. Plymouth was a naval station second only to Portsmouth during the Second World War. Devonport was also an important military station and there was a R.A.F station at Mount Batten, opposite Plymouth. PLYMOUTH (EFFORD) CEMETERY contains 338 scattered burials of the First World War. The 109 Second World War burials, including 5 unidentified, are also scattered apart from a small group in Section C, in a plot set aside for service burials that was actually little used. There are also two non-war service burials within the cemetery and 12 war graves of other nationalities, most of them Greek merchant seamen. PLYMOUTH CITY CREMATORIUM is situated in Plymouth (Efford) Cemetery and 61 servicemen and women of the Second World War whose remains were cremated there are commemorated on a screen wall set into a recess in the hedge behind the Cross of Sacrifice.