On 22nd May 1915 Britain’s worst ever rail disaster happened at Quintinshill near Gretna when three trains collided, killing 226 and injuring 246. All but 10 of the dead were volunteer soldiers from Edinburgh on their way to Liverpool before setting sail for Gallipoli.
Of the 485 men from the Leith Battalion of the Royal Scots who were on the special troop train, only 65 were present when the roll call was taken that afternoon – their fellow soldiers were all dead or wounded.
The 65 went on to Liverpool and walked from the station to the docks. Apparently they looked so ragged that some boys took them for German prisoners of war and pelted them with stones. Thankfully the medical staff realised that they were too shocked to travel on to Gallipoli and all but six of them were sent back to Edinburgh. The troop train had been one of two carrying the Royal Scots and the surviving officers joined the other half of the Battalion and went on to Gallipoli, where many of them were to die in a costly attack on 28th June. The soldiers who survived the rail accident went out to Gallipoli in September.
Find out how pupils from Leith Academy commemorated the soldiers here. In October 2015 a party of students from Leith Academy travelled out to Gallipoli and visited the graves of some of the soldiers who survived the accident at Quintinshill only to be killed a few weeks later in Gallipoli. See the account of their trip here.