Category Archives: Rail crossing disaster

Conington’s earlier incident

I told you about the sad death of Colonel Arthur Mellows and promised another story of death and ghostly events at the Conington Railway Crossing. This is it.

A Ministry of Transport Reports published on 14th October 1948 tells us that: “In dense fog, ten minutes after sunrise, a light engine travelling at about 20 m.p.h. from north to south on the up line collided with a Fordson 2½ ton covered lorry crossing the line from west to east. Though damage to the engine, of the 0-6-0 type running tender first, was negligible, the lorry, owned by the Huntingdon War Agricultural Executive Committee, was completely wrecked. It was conveying ten German prisoners of war to their work at neighbouring farms and its driver was also a German prisoner. I regret to report that three of the prisoners were killed outright and that three others, including the driver, died soon after admission to hospital or on their way there; the remaining five were seriously injured.

First aid was given by members of the railway staff and others.  Considering the density of the fog and the relative isolated site, there was no unavoidable delay in obtaining medical assistance.  A doctor from the medical officer of Sawtry prisoner-of-war camp arrived at about 7.45 a.m., also an ambulace from Peterborough.  Six of the injured men left for hospital by about 8.00 a.m. and the remaining two at about 10 a.m.”

The Peterborough Citizen and Advertiser’s headlines for 1 March 1948:
‘Six German prisoners-of-war killed. Five injured as engine hits lorry in fog near Conington.’
The report reads as follows:
‘Six German prisoners-of-war from Glatton Camp were killed and five more were injured when a light engine hit a three-ton lorry on this main line crossing over the Peter­borough-London line at Conington in dense fog at 7am yesterday [Monday]. Three were fatally injured and three more were killed instantly. The remaining five were admit­ted to Peterborough Hospital in a serious condition. They were travelling to work at Messrs B. and C. Papworth’s Charter Farm, Speechley Farm and Darlow Farm. Visibility at the time was about 15 yards. A lorry that was carrying three of the injured men together with Dr T. Kuhlo and his medical orderly (both Germans) was in collision with an Eastern Counties bus on the narrow road not far from the scene of the accident. The doctor and the orderly were both badly injured and the bus and the lorry were badly damaged.
The accident happened on a railway crossing with a reputa­tion for narrow escapes, mainly caused by people’s negligence in failing to close the gates securely and not being sufficiently observant when crossing the busy main line that carried high-speed traffic to and from London. The crossing lies on a very narrow road and the gates in those days were opened by the road users. The railway company displayed warning notices in prominent positions near the crossing, but people nevertheless were careless and lives were lost.’

In Parliament the Minister of Transport was asked whether he is aware that the level crossing near Conington North signal box has become increasingly dangerous to people working on nearby farms and local villages and to their children; that last December a farm lorry was involved in an accident with a train; that on 1st March four German P.O.Ws. were killed and eleven injured when the lorry conveying them to work was hit by a light engine at the crossing; and will he take immediate action with the Railways Executive to prevent accidents there in future.  In response it was said that he was aware of these two accidents and an inspecting officer of railways is holding an inquiry into the one which occurred on 1st March. Until his report is received, I must reserve any statement as to the circumstances. I should like, however, to express my regret at this unfortunate occurrence involving death and injury to a number of prisoners of war.  A Ministry of Transport in late 1948 goes into considerable depth on this and adds a supplementary report on 9th November 1948 on the Colonel Mellows incident.

The question now is – which accident appears in ghostly form most often? The answer appears to be ‘no-one knows’.  It is understandable that the death of an important man of Peterborough is more easily remembered but sightings of the stranded lorry have not gone away!