The Great War

Memorials to Railway and Dock Police Officers Killed in Action

Peter Zieminski describes placing the BTP plaque at Ypres.

The idea for a memorial plaque to commemorate the railway and dock policemen who lost their lives serving with the armed forces during the Great War first came to me in early 2009 while I was looking through the names of those killed-in-action, originally compiled by Kevin Gordon and Barry Kitchener, that was available on the Force Intranet.

Having previously visited St George’s Memorial Church in Ypres I knew that it was possible to approach the Church to have a memorial plaque installed within its walls (the Church has a large collection of plaques sponsored by individuals and organisations commemorating those who lost their lives while fighting on the Salient). Having gained the support of the Chief Constable I contacted the Reverend Barry Jones from St George’s Church who told me that he would welcome an application by BTP to have a plaque installed.

   With the necessary permissions secured, on the 9th November 2009 a delegation of BTP officers, led by Chief Constable, Andrew Trotter OBE, QPM, attended St George’s Church for a dedication service for the installation of the plaque. That evening BTP officers were invited by the Last Post Association to form the guard of honour at the Menin Gate during which the Chief Constable laid a wreath. At the time there were 109 names on the list of the fallen but further work by the BTP History Group has uncovered another 22 names, bringing the list to 131 railway and dock police officers (and one police clerk) that made the ultimate sacrifice during the Great War.

Memorial to Pc William Henry Wilson

Early in 1912, William Henry Wilson joined the Great Eastern Railway Police as a constable at Liverpool Street. He was the son of Thomas and Emma WILSON of Homerton, North London. When war broke out he joined the 1st Battalion Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment at the age of 29 years. He was killed-in-action on 23rd August 1914 just 19 days after Britain declared war on Germany and the Regiment’s first engagement with the enemy. Pc Wilson is remembered on the “La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre” Memorial near the River Marne east of Paris and on the Great Eastern Railway Memorial on the upper level of Liverpool Street Station, London.

On the 23rd August 2014, there will be a European Dedication of a new Memorial to the Officers and Men of The Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment who died during the Great War and PC (Private) W.H. Wilson will be commemorated on an individual Memorial Tile. Each of the nineteen men, from the Regiment, who were killed-in-action that day, will have a Memorial Tile planted in the gardens at the site of the Memorial in Tertre (at the junction of the Rue Defuisseaux and Rue des Herbieres). Given that Pc Wilson has no known grave, it is a very fitting tribute indeed.

   The event will be supported by the Queen’s Own Buffs Regimental Association and Andrew Figgures, Chief Executive of the British Transport Police and a former Lieutenant General has been invited to attend. The Chief Constable of the force is also being invited to lay a wreath. Peter Zieminski, a former British Transport Police Chief Superintendent and member of the BTP History Group will be present. In all, it will be a most appropriate connection between the regiment and the British Transport Police.

Remembering Dover in the Great War

Dover Marine Station, as it was before 1979, when it was re-named Dover Western Docks, played a vital part in transporting troops to France and receiving the returning wounded during both World Wars. It was also the port through which the body of the ‘Unknown Warrior’ returned in 1920 as it made its way towards its final resting place in Westminster Abbey.  In 2013, on Friday 8th November, pupils of the Duke of York’s Royal Military School, Dover, provided a Guard of Honour, a bugle call and laid a wreath at the war memorial at Dover. The ceremony is now an annual event, playing host to civic dignitaries and veteran’s organisations.

Rail staff, police and the local community gathered at the South Eastern & Chatham Railway (SE&CR) memorial at the former Dover Western Docks (Dover Marine) railway station, now Port of Dover Cruise Terminal 1, to honour the dead of both World Wars. The memorial was unveiled in 1922 in memory of the 556 railway personnel, including those of the SE&C Railway Police, who gave their lives in the Great War. The 626 Southern Railway personnel killed in the Second World War are also honoured on the memorial. The Service of Remembrance has taken place ever since the memorial was unveiled and from 1993 has been organised by Rob Bayliff, the last station supervisor at Dover Western Docks. PC John Coombes from BTP Ashford laid the Force wreath alongside Inspector Neil Care from the Port of Dover Police and a representative from Kent Police Special Branch. Southeastern’s Head of Crime and Security, Paul Nicholas, formerly Assistant Chief Constable with the British Transport Police, also attended along with PC Matthew Neaves from BTP Ashford and Inspector Stuart Downs from the Force Control Room. The service also honoured the homecoming of the ‘Unknown Warrior’ as it made its way to Westminster Abbey. Between 1914 and 1918 Dover Western Docks (Marine) station was the boarding point for 7,781 ambulance trains and carried 1,260,000 patients to hospitals across the nation.

The British Torch of Remembrance

The Torch of Remembrance was inaugurated by the Fédération Nationale des Combattants de Belgique in 1926, as a way of remembering their fallen comrades. It involved the handing over of a torch of freedom lit by the Everlasting Flame, from father to son at the National Memorial to the Unknown Soldier in Brussels. It was arranged that the ceremony should be held on 11th November each year. Nine torches are lit, representing the nine provinces of Belgium, assembled and carried in darkness to the National Memorial before the torches are doused. The tradition quickly spread across Belgium and in the course of time, torches from other countries began to take part. In November 1966 the first British Torch of Remembrance made its journey from London to Brussels. Each year at Westminster Abbey on the day prior to the Dover service, the Belgian and British National Torches of Remembrance are lit by the Dean of Westminster at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The following morning at Dover a service is held in the presence of the Mayor and civic dignitaries. The pilgrimage then travels by ferry to Calais and on to Oostende where it is met by the Burgomaster and town dignitaries. There follows a ceremony at the town war memorial. The pilgrims then journey on to participate in the ceremony at the Menin Gate, Ypres.

Paul Nicholas, third from left

Paul Nicholas joined the British Torch of Remembrance delegation in Belgium, dressed in his blazer of the Welsh Guards. At Brussels Central Railway Station there is a most impressive monument to the railway workers who formed part of the Belgian resistance to the German occupation. The photo shows the homage at the Memorial. The large contingent of Belgian veterans were commanded by the Chief Officer of the Brussels police. The Brussels Police Band escorted the British Delegation and Belgian Veterans organisations on a march from the station to the Town Hall for a reception with the Mayor.






This article originally appeared in the BTPHG Year Book 2014