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Quintinshill rail disaster remembered 100 years on

The Quintinshill rail crash occurred on May 22, 1915. Credit: War/Topham Picturepoint/PA Images

The 100th anniversary of Britain's worst rail disaster will be commemorated at a special service today.

Princess Anne and Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will attend a ceremony at Gretna, on the Scottish-English border, for the event to mark the centenary of the Quintinshill rail crash.

At 6.50am on May 22, 1915, a train packed with First World War troops travelling from Larbert in Stirlingshire collided with a local passenger service.

Immediately afterwards a Glasgow-bound express train smashed into the wreckage at the Quintinshill signal box, setting off a devastating fire which engulfed the troop train, packed with nearly 500 members of the Leith Battalion of the Royal Scots.

Fifty two men of the 7th Battalion of the Royal Scots answer roll call after the collision. Credit: War/Topham Picturepoint/PA Images

More than 200 soldiers and 12 civilians were killed, while a further 246 people were injured.

The troops were on their way to Liverpool, where they would then sail to the front line of the war in Gallipoli.

Many of the soldiers were buried in a mass grave in Rosebank Cemetery in Edinburgh, where a memorial carries the name of everyone who died.

The plaque in memory of the Quintinshill rail disaster at Rosebank Cemetery in Edinburgh. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Exactly 100 years on from the tragedy, the Princess Royal will attend the ecumenical service at Gretna and lay a wreath, with a second wreath being laid on behalf of the Royal Scots.

The programme of events in the area also includes:

  • A march to Quintinshill rail siding
  • The unveiling of a roll of honour at Gretna Old Parish Church
  • A commemorative tree planting at Gretna Green war memorial
  • The reading of a poem at Stormont village hall

Princess Anne and Sturgeon will go on to attend a service in Leith tomorrow.