• The Villages Mag

The 1941 Holmes Chapel Rail Crash

At about 1:20 am on Sunday 14th September 1941, a serious rail crash occurred at Holmes Chapel Station when nine people were killed, six in the accident and three more died later. Forty five passengers were injured, with 21 being detained in hospital. The accident involved a Crewe – Leeds Express, a mail train, which was almost stationary in the station, and a Crewe – Manchester train, which ran into the rear destroying the last two passenger coaches of the Leeds Express.

As the trapped passengers struggled in the darkness, airmen and soldiers from the undamaged coaches on both trains went to the rescue. Prompt measures were taken by the resident Station Master and his staff who were awakened by the crash, and by the Sergeant in charge of the Police Station, who summoned medical assistance and ambulances, and initially attended to the injured. Doctor Picton arrived at 1:40 am, and the first ambulance arrived at about 2 am.

Villagers awoken by the sound of the crash ran to the station with blankets and supplies of hot water. Home Guards and local ARP workers joined the rescue gangs. The Swan Inn was converted into a temporary dressing station where the injured received attention before being taken to Arclid Hospital in ambulances summoned from all parts of Cheshire. All the seriously injured had been removed to the hospital by 3:15 am.

The dead were recorded as:

  • Pilot Officer William Evans (25), of Newport, Monmouthshire

  • Private Claude Lowder (22) of Spring Grove, Fenay Bridge, Huddersfield, Yorkshire

  • Sergeant John McCrae (31), RAF, of Park Avenue, Skipton, Yorkshire

  • Private John Lennox (24), OCTU, of Jersey Avenue, Stanmore , Middlesex

  • First-class Aircraftman Jeffrey Williams (23), of Hull

  • George Christie Lowe (39) of Eden Street, Oswestry

  • Reginald Gregory (35), Railway Guard, of Llanfair, Pear Tree Lane, Wednesfield

  • Stoker J Foster (26) RN, of Grimsby

  • Eileen Ann Pritchard (13 months old) of Derby Terrace, Wrexham who was travelling with her mother, who was seriously injured.

After an Inquest held at the Victoria Club, and a formal Inquiry at the Crewe Arms in Crewe, it was deemed that the crash was due to a number of factors, including old signalling technology that had been due to be replaced and the demands placed on signalmen working single handed on 12 hour night shifts 6 days per week. Of course, another important factor which was not mentioned at the Inquiry was that the crash occurred during the Second World War, in the middle of the night, when a complete blackout was in operation.

Holmes Chapel U3A - Local History Group

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