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Tenterden: Memorial for victims of Hither Green

By Kristina Curtis

The sister of a man killed in an horrific train crash is calling for a memorial to remember the victims.

This Sunday is the 50th anniversary of the Hither Green train disaster.

On November 5, 1967, the busy 7.43pm train service from Hastings to Charing Cross became derailed near Hither Green station, near Lewisham in south east London.

Devastation of the Hither Green train crash
Devastation of the Hither Green train crash

Only two of the train’s 12 carriages remained on the tracks and several of the coaches were turned onto their sides before travelling on for a further 250 yards.

Forty-nine passengers were killed in the disaster and 78 people were injured, the majority of them in the overturned carriages.

One of the victims was Hugh Roots, a 21-year-old from Rolvenden, who was returning back to university after spending the weekend as his parents’ farm.

Mr Roots was in his final year training to be a veterinary surgeon at The Royal Veterinary College in London.

His sister Emma West, who still lives in Rolvenden, was 17 at the time of the accident, which was caused by a broken rail.

Victim Hugh Roots
Victim Hugh Roots

She said: “The last time I saw my brother he was running to the train because it was there waiting for him.

“He was travelling back to London and used to go from Staplehurst but the station was closed that day because of engineering works so he had to use another station.

“We didn’t know anything about the crash until the following morning. My dad saw the police coming towards the house and thought that it was just that the cows had got onto the road, so when we found out what had happened it was devastating.

“We were very close.”

“There has been no memorial set up to mark this tragedy" - Mrs West

Mrs West added: “My mother went to London but it took her four days to identify Hugh because she was shown so many different bodies. It was ghastly, you never forget it.

“I still have his luggage in my attic - there isn’t a single scratch on it.

“I re-live it all the time, especially this time of year, and I haven’t been able to get on a train since it happened.”

Now, at the time of the anniversary, Mrs West is trying to organise a memorial for the people who were involved in the crash and their relatives.

“There has been no memorial set up to mark this tragedy. I want something local, not in Hither Green where you have to travel far to visit.

“Not many people have heard of the crash but there must be a few surviving relatives who would also like a memorial set up.”

Anyone interested in setting up a memorial is asked to get in touch by emailing kentishexpress@thekmgroup.co.uk

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