Forty years ago this town was rocked to its core when it was learned that four of Rye’s most promising young people, just at the start of their lives were killed and other Rye people badly injured when the Sunday evening express from Hastings to London was derailed at Hither Green. it was 5 November 1967 and many had travelled down to Rye for the Bonfire celebrations the previous evening.
The express, consisting of twelve coaches and driven by two six-car Class 201 diesel-electric multiple units, derailed at approximately 70 mph, shortly before the train crossed the St Mildred’s Road railway bridge. Most of the carriages overturned, two of them having their sides torn off. The train was well-filled and 49 people died and 78 were injured, some seriously.
The shock waves resounded around this town when it was learned that Dianna Williams, Gay Breeds, Ricky Spencer and Judith Breeds were among the dead, four of Rye’s brightest pupils extinguished in one short moment. Forty years on they are still keenly remembered by families and friends.
To commemorate their names in a more permanent form a seat, suitably inscribed, was dedicated at a ceremony on The Strand, attended by The Mayor & Mayoress of Rye Sam Souster & Rita Cox, the Deputy Mayor John Breeds & Mrs. Breeds, the Rev. Hugh Moseley, members of Rye Old Scholars Association (who organised the event), relatives and friends of those who lost their lives and many other well known Rye faces.
There were prayers conducted by Rev Hugh Moseley and tributes from Kevin Williams, John Breeds and Neil Perry.
The following letter, sent by Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees himself a surviver from the crash, was read by The Mayor. Sam Souster then read out a letter from Bee Gee Robin Gibb
“I am extremely sorry I cannot be here in person for this very important occasion. Forty years ago one of the worst train crashes in British history took place at Hither Green. I was a passenger on that train. For forty years I have not seen myself as a victim but as a survivor as so many people lost their lives that night. The memory has never left me and there is hardly a day that goes by that I do not think about it. In many ways it changed my life. My heart goes out to the
families of those that lost loved ones in the Hither Green train crash and there were many more injured it is important we never forget what happened on November 5 1967. We are particularly remembering those who lost their lives from this school and in many ways it reminds us of how swiftly life can be taken away. We know nothing can bring them back but this commemorative seat will be a lasting memorial for them.
With love and sincere wishes to the families and friends of those who were lost.”
There was a reading by Richard Moore, the unveiling ceremony and a prayer of dedication for the bench then took place. Members of the close families cast flowers of rememberance into the river, it was a very poinient moment.
After the dedication a post service reception was held at the Standard Inn where light refreshments were served and a glasses were raised to ‘Absent Friends’.
Rye’s Own December 2008
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