Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Private Joseph Roach of the Royal Scotts Regiment.

By kind permission of Historian Geoff Harrison, who has supported my commemorative project since it began, here is a poem written by one of the survivors of the terrible multi-train crash known as the Quintinshill Rail Disaster. The accident happened near Gretna Green in Dumfriesshire, Scotland on 22nd May 1915, when a troop train carrying soldiers of the 1/7th Battalion Royal Scots from Larbert to Liverpool was in collision with a local train. Just minutes later, an express train hit the other two trains. The soldiers of the Royal Scots Regiment were on their way to Liverpool to set sail for Gallipoli. 226 died and 246 were injured. We will remember them...

Geoff says:  "Private Joseph Roach, #1777/41000, 1/7th Royal Scotts. Gretna survivor. Even better for him, he survived the war. He rejoined his comrades, or what was left of them, on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 3rd September 1915. As for his poem, it was used at Recruiting Rallies."

The following verse was written by one of those injured at Gretna, 22nd May 1915:

I will tell you a tale of the Seventh
A Battalion we looked on with pride.
I will tell of the valour of comrades
Who for King and for Country have died.

We had been for some ten months training
And we found it was work and not play;
You may guess that each man was delighted
When we learned we were going away.

We had all said goobye to our loved ones
'Ere we set out for over the main;
And I tell you the boys were quite happy
On the morn we stepped into the train.

Off we sped, never thinking of danger;
Ah! I can see every happy face still -
Now a joke, now a laugh, now “Where are we?”
“Yes – the next box will be Quinton Hill.”

And 'twas just then the terrible smash came;
Heavens! It caught us like rats in a trap,
Just when some of our boys a bit drowsy
Were enjoying a quiet little nap.

I was thrown to the right of the carriage
My head and right arm were held fast.
Horrors! Here were the flames coming near me -
What a death! Was next minute my last?

Yes, I shouted for help – and I listened,
“Oh God!” I heard dying men shout;
And 'midst that came – a second collision -
I can tell you no more – I got out.

Ask me not of the sights I beheld there
As I lay on the ground all alone;
But I'll tell of brave lads who leapt into the flames
And saved lives at the risk of their own!

In History's pages, in letters of gold,
Write their names – it is where they should be
For many a lad on that terrible morn
Showed the valour that wins the V.C

Oh, their deeds will ave live in my memory
Their praises, I'd sing them aloud
But to shoulder with such a battalions
It's of that most of all, I'm proud.

Yea, the scenes of that war-sticken morning
From my vision I can never blot;
But 'twill ever be the boast of my life
That I was once a Seventh Royal Scot'

When the order comes - “Forward! Out bayonets!”
And your nerves need a spark that will thrill
Think, oh think of the Heroes of Gretna
And the comrades whose voices are still.

 Joseph Roach, Private with the Royal Scotts Regiment.