Wooden Knife

A Relic of a Tragedy

On Saturday 22 May 1915, a troop train carrying Royal Scots soldiers collided with a passenger train at Quintinshill, near Gretna.

The train had been bound for Liverpool, carrying half of the 7th (Leith) Battalion, The Royal Scots. The soldiers had been deployed to Gallipoli and were heading to board a ship that would take them there.

The accident happened at 06.49am when the troop train collided head on with a local passenger train which had been parked on the south-bound line to allow an express train to overtake it. The troop train overturned onto the north-bound mainline and into the path of the Glasgow-bound express, which ploughed into the wreckage a few minutes later, causing it to burst into flames.

The carriages of the troop-train were very old, made of wood and lit by gas which was contained in a tank beneath them. The ferocity of the fire and the extent of the wreckage, meant that rescuing those trapped was very difficult. Survivors wasted little time trying to help free those trapped, and were soon joined by the people living nearby.

Of the half-battalion on the train 62 survived unscathed, including the Commanding Officer, who continued on to Liverpool and sailed with the other half of the Battalion as planned.

Between the crash and the subsequent fire, 216 soldiers and 12 civilians died in, or as a result of, the crash. The little wooden knife pictured was made from the wreckage of one of the carriages and is inscribed “GRETNA” on the blade and the date 22 MAY 1915 on the handle.