On this day in history : 5th November 1967 – A passenger train derails at Hither Green in South East London…. 49 people are killed and a further 78 injured….

It was a Sunday evening, the packed 12 coach 7.43pm express train was travelling from Hastings to Charing Cross…. At just after 9.15pm disaster was to strike when moving at a speed of approximately 70mph the train derailed…. It happened just before the St. Mildred’s Road railway bridge, close to the Hither Green maintenance depot – a little over a mile from the scene of another rail-crash killing 90 people in Lewisham ten years before….

Hither Green maintenance depot – Image credit : Leaozinho – own work – Public domain

The Hastings to London derailment occurred when the leading pair of wheels of the third coach hit a broken rail and came off the tracks…. The train carried on for a quarter of a mile until it came to a set of points – causing eleven of the coaches to derail…. Four of them turned on to their sides, with two jack-knifing….

It was a busy train, many of the passengers were standing – most of the casualties were in the over-turned carriages…. The emergency services arrived within five minutes and rescuers worked through the night under floodlights to free survivors – among them Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees and his wife, Molly….

An investigation found a rail had fractured at its joint – a triangular piece of metal had fallen out of the bolt hole…. Consequently maintenance of the line was improved, along with inspection procedures – and future rail joints made to a different specification….

A plaque at Hither Green commemorates those who died and on each anniversary flowers and wreaths are laid….

Hither Green Station, 1992 – Image credit : Ben Brooksbank CC BY-SA 2.0

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