The Duke of Gloucester attended the Railway Workers’ First World War Centenary Service last Wednesday, 4th November, at Southwark Cathedral in London. Over 16 rail organisations joined together to host the event and commemorate the lives of thousands of rail workers who lost their lives during the Great War.
The Duke of Gloucester’s attendance at the service held a special significance. The Duke’s grandfather, King George V, held a similar service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in May 1919, in memory of the railwaymen of Great Britain and Ireland who have died in the service of their country during the Great War. Over 7,000 people attended the St. Paul’s service, while over 650 attended Wednesday’s memorial.
Southwark Cathedral was selected as the venue given its enduring history with the nearby railway communities of London Bridge, Waterloo, and Blackfriars.
Among the guests were Sir Peter Hendy, CBE and Chair of Network Rail. Speaking to the media Sir Peter said, “Over 100 years on from the end of World War I, this memorial service was a great opportunity for the railway industry to come together and remember the hundreds of thousands of railway workers who served their country, over 20,000 of whom made the ultimate sacrifice. It was important to pay our respects to those workers, whose contribution will never be forgotten.”
Honoured and privileged to have helped to organise and attend an amazingly beautiful service at Southwark Cathedral today in memory of the 20,000+ railwaymen who lost their lives in WW1 #TfL pic.twitter.com/20E7rP0enF
— Lisa Barclay 🕷 (@netgirl67) November 6, 2019
Other guests included officials from various railway companies, including Irish Rail and Scottish Railways, railway chaplains, and family members of those who fought in the war. Many attendees wore their work uniforms and some sported honours awarded by past monarchs and passed down through the years.
Graham Wood’s grandfather, Wilfred, was a railwayman who received the Victoria Cross in 1918. “I was delighted to be invited today, 100 years on, to remember him and the thousands of others who served their country,” he said.
“Today is the first time I’ve worn the Victoria Cross to any event in all the years it’s been in the family. It’s been a lovely day out and I’ve enjoyed it very much.”
— Tracey (@TraceyDagley) November 6, 2019
The hour-long service featured a reading of “In Flanders Field”, Bible passages, a sounding of the Last Post, and two minutes’ silence. London’s Transport Choir performed while the Guild of Railway Ringers rang the cathedral’s bells.
Mr Lee Paine, a rolling stock engineer for Govia Thameslink, gave a moving speech in which he discussed the contributions of railway families during the war. “The bravery, strength and resilience of those on the frontline was matched by the determination, strength and selflessness of those railway people who struggled on the home front. Their contribution was every bit as important as those who fought with bayonets on the frontline,” he said.
Was honoured to have been apart of this service today, privileged to have been asked to write and deliver a speech for the 20,000 railway workers who lost their lives in WW1.
Unexpected but very Positive feedback from Network Rail CEO Andrew Haynes 🙌
We will remember them 💂♀️🚂 pic.twitter.com/BT5rGzJ2gX
— Lee Paine (@leepaine16) November 6, 2019
And family seems to have been a recurring theme. Reverend Liam Johnston, Executive Director of the Railway Mission, said, “The railway industry was instrumental in helping the Allies win the Great War but my message to you today is simply this: that through love and reconciliation, today’s railway family can help bring peace to a troubled world.”