Topic: Bere Ferrers Railway Station Accident, 1917.

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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 on 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).


On Monday 24 September 1917, ten New Zealand soldiers were killed, and two were injured when they alighted from a troop train at the Bere Ferrers station, near Plymouth in South Devon.

The NZEF 28th REinforcement's two troopships Ulimaroa and Norman had just arrived at Plymouth Sound from New Zealand, and were en-route from the docks to Sling Camp on the Salisbury Plains when the tragedy occured. The men were struck by the west-bound express from Waterloo to Plymouth. (NZ Genealogist Vol 39 No 310 Mar/Apr 2008 p75)

According to the inquest:

 "The evidence showed that the men were travelling in a troop train which was pulled up at Bere Ferrers station, the line ahead being blocked. The soldiers had been told that on arrival at Exeter, which was expected to be the first stop, two men from each compartment were to get out and draw rations from the brake van. When the train pulled up at Bere Ferrers, and almost before it had come to a stand, a number of men jumped on to the line, apparently under the impression that they had arrived at the stopping place of which they had been told. Almost immediately an express train from Waterloo to Plymouth dashed through the station and the men on the line were struck down."

Nine New Zealand soldiers were killed instantly. One, W J TRUSSELL died later at the Tavistock Hospital. The ten are buried at the Plymouth (Efford) Cemetery and each have a Commonwealth War Graves headstone.

Parishoners of Bere Ferrers subscribed to brass tablet which was unveiled at a memorial service in St Andrew's Church, built in 1333, a year later by the Bishop of Exeter, Lord William Cecil, who had lost three sons in action. The church rector, James Sharpe, who attended the accident, later accepted a New Zealand flag donated by the New Zealand Government, to hang in the church.(NZ Genealogist Vol 39 No 310 Mar/Apr 2008 p75). A plaque was also erected at the Bere Ferrers railway station.


GILLANDERS William Simon Rifleman 55050 36 years
GREAVES William Frederick Rifleman 57068 31 years
JACKSON John Stanley Private 55753 20 years
JUDGE Joseph Rifleman 56791
KIRTON Chudleigh Inwood Rifleman 56795 21 years
McBRYDE Baron Archibald Wilson Private 55776 24 years
McKENNA Richard Vincent Rifleman 57122 20 years
TRUSSELL William John Rifleman 56874 28 years
WARDEN John Rifleman 56883 33 years
WEST Sidney Ennis Private 54624 21 years


BARNES Robert James Rifleman 55026
GATLEY Nathaniel Johnston Private 56920


One of the three New Zealanders injured in the railway accident at Bere Ferrars in Devonshire, W J TRUSSELL, died at Tavistock. To ascertain the identity of the dead has proved difficult owing to their mutilation. The other two injured, N J GATLEY and R J BARNES, who are suffering from fractures and severe shock, are progressing favourably.

The New Zealanders killed in the Devon railway disaster were buried this afternoon in the corporation cemetery at Egg Buckland, outside Plymouth. Anglican, Catholic & Presbyterian services were read. The funeral was attended by a party of New Zealanders and garrison troops. The coffins were taken on gun carriages and motor ambulances. The graves are situated in various denominational sections but all are within a small radius.


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Bere Ferrers Railway Station Accident, 1917. by Selwyn Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License