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Great War Railwaymen

A railwayman who has served in the Territorial Army has written a book about the sacrifice of the thousands of railway staff who died in the Great War.

Jeremy Higgins, who lives in Daventry, Northamptonshire, is currently director of customer service at CrossCountry trains and was inspired by a brief glance at a war memorial at Leamington Spa station when he returned from duty in Iraq in 2007. He looked again and found himself wondering about the men behind the names engraved on the stone. Seven years later his book, Great War Railwaymen, which looks at over 1,000 railwaymen killed in the conflict, was published last month.

‘My aim with the book is to try to remember these people who served and died and bring out what happened to a modern audience. I also wanted to raise money for the Army Benevolent Fund, The Soldiers’ Charity and the Railway Benefit Fund (RBF). It has taken me seven years to research 12,500 of the 20,000-plus railwaymen who died in the Great War. The story is fascinating and hopefully will be of interest to all.’

Among the many stories, the example of Sergeant HB Parkin, a York-based clerk with the North Eastern Railway who served with the West Yorkshire Regiment, stands out.

Parkin was awarded a posthumous Distinguished Conduct Medal for fighting off a German attack on his own. The citation reads,

‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, during a very heavy bombardment of the line followed by a raid of storm troops, though wounded during bombardment, he refused to leave his post and though all his men were eventually killed or wounded, he succeeded in holding out single handed and in killing an officer and two men who penetrated the post. He was again severely wounded and, on arrival of reinforcements, was found propped against the trench in a pool of blood. But for his courage the enemy would have succeeded in a lodgement in our line.’

Jeremy Higgins says many railwaymen also served at sea and in the air. He would like to hear from anyone with information about individual railway workers who served in the Great War.

‘So far, I have researched 12,500 railway workers who died, but I am keen to find out more about those that came back. Over 180,000 railwaymen served in the First World War. I don’t believe any other organisation contributed more. Of those, 20,000 died.’

The book, ‘Great War Railwaymen’ by Jeremy Higgins, is available from Amazon. For more information about the book e-mail: jeremy-higgins@hotmail.co.uk

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