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About the Gretna Rail Disaster

The Quintinshill rail disaster was a multi-train rail crash which occurred on 22 May 1915 outside the Quintinshill signal box near Gretna Green in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. It resulted in the deaths of over 200 people, and is the worst rail disaster in British history.

The first collision occurred when a southbound troop train travelling from Larbert to Liverpool collided with the stationary local train. A minute later the wreckage was struck by a northbound sleeping car express train travelling from London Euston to Glasgow Central. Gas from the Pintsch gas lighting system of the old wooden carriages of the troop train ignited, starting a fire which soon engulfed all five trains.

Those killed were mainly Territorial soldiers from the 1/7th (Leith) Battalion, the Royal Scots heading for Gallipoli. The precise death toll was never established with confidence as some bodies were never recovered, having been wholly consumed by the fire, and the roll list of the regiment was also destroyed in the fire. The official death toll was 227 (215 soldiers, 9 passengers and three railway employees).

The soldiers were buried together in a mass grave in Edinburgh’s Rosebank Cemetery, where an annual remembrance is held.