Their comrades had met their death in an inferno, which left only the skeletons of the carriages and which had twisted ironwork into shapeless masses. The igniting gas on the troop train had proved more deadly than the poison gas fumes used by the Germans in the trenches. (Daily Sketch - Photographs).


Two commemorative events will take place to mark the centenary of the Quintinshill rail disaster, the worst railway accident in British history. These commemorations will be particularly significant as they will be attended by descendants of those who died in the disaster.

A rear view of the Gretna rail disaster - May 22nd 1915.
A rear view of the Quintinshill rail disaster – May 22nd 1915.

At 6.49am on 22 May 1915 a troop-train, carrying 498 members of the 1st/7th (Leith) Battalion, The Royal Scots, en route to Liverpool to embark for Gallipoli, crashed into a local train which was parked on the wrong line at Quintinshill, just north of Gretna.

A minute later, a Glasgow-bound express ploughed into the wreckage. 216 men from the Battalion died and a further 220 were injured in the crash and ensuing fire. Nearly all came from Leith, Musselburgh or Portobello. Most of those killed were buried in a communal grave in Rosebank Cemetery, Pilrig Street, where a Memorial Cross and Plaques commemorate all 216 who died.

Gretna Rail Disaster, Train Wreck, 1915 (2)
The wreck of the carriages after the crash – 1915

Marking the centenary of this crash, commemoration events will take place in Gretna and Leith.

Gretna – Friday 22 May 2015, 11:00am

Taking place at the Royal Scots memorial cairn behind the Old Blacksmiths Shop in Gretna, there will be a Ecumenical service and wreath laying attended by HRH The Princess Royal, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop MSP, and The Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell MP.

There will also be a Quintinshill poem reading, the Unveiling of a new Roll of Honour at Gretna Old Parish Church, and a Tree planting by HRH The Princess Royal at the Gretna Green War Memorial.

There will also be an Act of Remembrance and wreath laying at the Quintinshill siding, the site of the accident.

The roll call of thouse who survived the disasterat Quintinshill - May 22nd 1915.
The roll call of those who survived the disaster at Quintinshill – May 22nd 1915.

Leith – Saturday 23 May 2015, 10:15am

A military parade will follow the route taken by the funeral procession 100 years ago, leaving from the former Drill Hall on Dalmeny Street at 10:15 and finishing at Rosebank Cemetery. The Service will commence at 11am and will be attended by the same high-profile guests attending the Gretna event.

Members of the public are invited to attend Pilrig Park, where a TV broadcast of the Commemoration Service will be screened live.

An alternative viewing area for disabled people will be provided within Pilrig St Paul’s Church on the corner of Leith Walk and Pilrig Street. A new BBC docu-drama of the crash, with commentary by Scottish historian Neil Oliver will be shown at 11am, followed by a recording of the Sevice at 12 noon.

Gretna Funeral March, 1915 (1)
The funeral procession through Leith for the victims of the crash