Jubilees and Coronations

1952: Britain was still recovering from the second world war. Some foods were still on ration – it would be another year before sugar came off – though interestingly, fish and chips never were.

So imagine the grief felt by most of the nation when King George VI died. If that wasn’t enough, Britain’s worst peacetime rail disaster occurred  before the year was out.

I’d be almost four, when the first of these events took place;

  • Accession of Elizabeth II: 6th February 1952,
  • England’s worst train crash: 8th October 1952,
  • Coronation of Elizabeth II: on 2nd June 1953, which I just about remember watching on a tiny black and white television in some rich-person’s front room. I also remember the curb-stones being crayoned red, white and blue; I suppose I was much closer to them then. But I digress.

Now I don’t really believe in coincidences – yet, I’m managing to write a few into my crime novel – but isn’t it curious that the crash falls, almost to the day, exactly between the two royal events?

No, it’s not curious at all. It’s just how things worked out. But what is curious is that no one, no august body of crash investigators could say exactly why the crash occurred. True, the Ministry of Transport Report, released just 10 days after the Coronation, found the Perth train-crew were at fault, but could only surmise as to why: both the driver and fireman died.

Want some more coincidences? Three trains were involved in the crash of 60 years ago. The Perth sleeper service was hauled by a Coronation class locomotive, which ran into a stationary local service, and the third train was headed by a Jubilee class locomotive.  Stranger and stranger, eh?  And the other express locomotive involved: that was a Princess Royal Class named Princess Anne. Of course, all of these were designed and built long before the occasion of Elizabeth’s Jubilee being celebrated this week.

So what’s all this got to do with me? I’ll tell you.

My crime novel – working title Searching for Closure – tells a tale of mystery and murder, the inciting incident of which is the Harrow and Wealdstone disaster. Lorna, who loses relatives in the disaster, needs to know why it happened and seven years later discovers that D I Crosier had investigated what might have gone wrong.  Crosier is at a loss, just as everyone else was at the time, to answer her enquiry. But events spiral out of control and  …

Well that would be telling wouldn’t it, so you’d better get on the mailing list for updates.

Thanks for reading,

Edwin

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