Always going to be a short blog. Everyone knows about Gretna/Quintinshill, and Hamont, well perhaps not Hamont.
First a quick word about where the victims are buried. The soldiers from Quintinshall are buried in Rosebank cemetery in Edinburgh. Often visited although the graves of the children killed in the crash are buried in Glasgow’s Necropolis, and the Engine Driver and crew of the troop train are buried in Stanwix Cemetery near Carlisle less so. We know that burials are often away from the site of such disasters.
Hamont, however, is a mystery. The first part of the mystery is few know where the place is. Hamont is in Belgium. The trains involved were all in the marshaling yard, all were stationary. The Railway run through Hamont through the Netherlands and on into Germany and Monchengladbach. The date of the disaster was the 17th November 1918. At least one of the trains was carrying munitions. Three other trains were also in the yard at the time. The other three trains were carrying wounded soldiers who were being taken back to Germany. As far asI know there was no problem with the trains or of the Dutch allowing German wounded in hospital trains to travel through Dutch territory back to Germany. Not sure about the train carrying munitions though, perhaps the Germans forgot to mention it. the details from here on are confusing. The hospital trains were full of wounded. The train carry munitions caught fire. Newspaper reports (New York Times, and others) from the period state the fire was started by children building a bonfire. This seems unlikely. The munition train exploded. How many were killed or wounded by the explosio is not known. Some of the wounded were treated at the Nunnery outside of Hamont the others in hospitals in the area. How many were killed is unknown. The Newspapers put the death toll at well over a thousand. A figure which seems a bit high. So where are they buried? The answer is who knows? Apart from six they were spirited away. No locals seem to have been killed or though the devastation was horrendous. The German dead just disappeared. Perhaps taken to Germany and buried as died in the war it no one seems to know. All trace has vanished. Apart from six. The six are buried in Weert just over the border in the Netherlands. The six are all named and there is a monument above their grave in the cemetery at Weert. The monument was unveiled with great pomp by the Nazi’s in 1937. The occasion being the first public performance of the Horst Wessel song in the Netherlands.