Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Railway Tragedy at Sharnbrook

Private James Joseph Rothwell (centre) [from Bedfordshire Standard, 8th January 1915]

Thursday 7th January 1915:  An inquest was held today into the tragic death of Private James Joseph Rothwell, a National Reservist, who was hit by a train while guarding the railway at Sharnbrook Viaduct on Tuesday. Private Rothwell went on duty at 6am, together with Private Edward Fookes. At 9.30am Private Fookes saw Private Rothwell in the hut and warned him to be careful because the weather was very foggy. William Goodman, who was driving the 9.27 train from Bedford, said that before reaching Sharnbrook Bridge he blew the whistle. He glimpsed Private Rothwell at the side of the line, where he appeared to be in the act of stepping from the left rail. There was no time to stop and the engine struck the Reservist on his side. He was quickly taken by special train to Bedford, but died before arriving at the County Hospital. The cause of death was given as a fractured neck. It appears that Private Rothwell did not take sufficient care while on the line and it has been suggested that he had been bending over to put coal on the fire. The jury gave a verdict of accidental death.

Private Rothwell was called up for the National Reserve in November and had been on duty at Sharnbrook for a month. His thirteen years of service with the 2nd Middlesex Regiment included the war in South Africa where he took part in the Battle of Spion Kop. He received the Queen’s Medal with six clasps and the King’s Medal with two clasps. After leaving the Army he was a clerk at the Queen’s Engineering Works in Bedford where he lived at 10 Cromwell Road. He was an active Unionist and a street list man for the Borough Unionist Association. He leaves a widow and three small children.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 8th January 1915

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