Villagers were awoken from their sleep to the screaming of those passengers who were trapped and did their best to rescue who they could. All the carriages had caught fire and some passengers who were trapped by their arms or legs under the wreckage, begged those who were trying to rescue them, to cut off their limbs as they did not want to burn to death.
One harrowing account was from a passenger who was
travelling with his wife and widowed sister, and they were in the second coach.
The man, Louis Huntley, spoke of him telling his wife to jump out of the
carriage, which she did, but he saw his sister, trapped from the waist down by
the weight of the mangled wreckage. He couldn’t pull her free, and as he saw
the flames coming nearer, he had no choice but to jump and leave his poor
sister there to die in the flames.
A public house nearby, called
The Railway Tavern, became the place to treat any injuries. More than 30 people
were treated for injuries and there were 11 gravely injured passengers.
Because of the intensity of
the fire, there weren't many human remains to identify those who had died.
Personal effects such as rings, watches, even a distinctive shirt were used to
identify those who had perished. The total number of those who died was 16
(although some reports say 13 and others say 15, I have put 16 as I had this
number from the official inquiry into the accident) and this is where the
mystery of 2 children begins.
When the search of body parts
and personal effects was taken, the remains of 2 children were found but only
the trunks of the bodies. They were lying close together near the Gloucester
side of the bridge and had no personal effects on them. Close by, there was a
shoe, which had partial remains of a foot inside and these shoes measured
around 9” in length. The children’s remains were approximately aged, one male
who was 10-15 years of age and the other child was aged around 3 to 7 years of
age. No one claimed these poor children.
All the other people who had
died in the horrific crash had been identified apart from these 2 children and
1 other passenger. The other passenger was later identified by a survivor from
the accident, and he was Mr Nixon, a Clerk from Halifax. The survivor was shown
a photo of Mr Nixon and identified him as he had shared a compartment on the
train. Mr Nixon never returned home to his mother and had written to her the
day before the crash, saying he would be getting the train. His being declared
as dead was the first time under the new Coroner’s Act that being declared dead
without an actual body was actioned.
During the inquest, which was
held in the nearby village of Wotton-under-Edge (where the haunted Ancient Ram
Inn stands) a porter at Gloucester station said he had seen 2 unaccompanied
children travelling together on the train. He said one was a girl around 12 and
the boy was around 9 years of age. He noticed they had school caps on and had
their own tickets. He could not recall how they were dressed. Another possible
clue to the children’s identity was a school badge on a blazer that was found.
The motto on the badge was “Luce Magistra”, which roughly translates to “With
the light as my teacher”. This badge was found to belong to a girls school in
Cornwall but it had been found out that a consignment of 10 of these blazers
had been a package on the train and had been sent from a Bradford firm so this
clue was a dead end.
These poor children were
labelled as Number 9 and Number 10 as no one claimed them despite publicising
these 2 children countrywide. Their remains were buried in the churchyard in a
mass grave. There has been a memorial stone for those who perished at the site
of the crash and the children are included as “Two Unknown”.