Book is a tribute to rail war heroes

Railway book
Railway book

A book detailing the sacrifices made by thousands of railway staff who lost their lives in the Great War will help raise money for charity.

Army reservist and rail worker Jeremy Higgins, 50, was inspired by the Great Western Railway (GWR) War Memorial at Leamington railway station to write the “Great War Railwaymen”.

The book was published on November 10.

Jeremy, from Daventry, has been working on the railway for 14 years, most recently as CrossCountry’s customer service director from its Birmingham headquarters.

He has been an army reservist for 30 years, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To pay his respects to those men and women who died during the Great War and to mark the launch of his book, Jeremy played a part in memorial ceremonies at Birmingham Moor Street and Leamington stations where he laid wreaths.

Six months after returning from active duty in Iraq in 2007, Jeremy was standing on the station platform in Leamington, waiting for his train to Birmingham. After glancing over at the GWR memorial, wondering about the men behind the names, he decided to start researching them.

Over the last seven years, he has devoted all his spare time to researching the exploits of 12,500 railway forbears, which can now be read by others in his book.

Among the many stories is the example of Sergeant HB Parkin, a York-based clerk with the North Eastern Railway who served with the West Yorkshire Regiment. Parkin was awarded a posthumous Distinguished Conduct Medal for courageously fighting off a German attack single handedly.

The proceeds from the book will go to the Railway Benefit Fund and the Army Benevolent Fund – the soldiers’ charity, to help those who have served their country in more recent generations.

Over £36,000 has been donated by a number of train companies across the UK already, thanks in part to Andy Cooper, managing director of CrossCountry, who rallied support.

Jeremy, said: “My aim with the book is to try to remember these people who served and died during the war, and to tell their stories to a new generation.

“The Great War Railwaymen is vital to our understanding of the railways, and those that ran them, and the significant role they played. I also wanted to raise money for two wonderful causes, which are very close to my heart.

“It has taken me seven years to research 12,500 of the 20,000-plus railwaymen who died in the Great War. I think their stories are just fascinating and hope others will too.”

General the Lord Dannatt, former chief of the general staff and army head - the grandson of a Royal Engineers officer who ran ammunition trains in France during the Great War, said: “It’s a timely contribution to our commemoration of the First World War and the men and women of that generation who were caught up in its horror and intensity.”

Great War Railwaymen -Britain’s Railway Company Workers at War 1914-1918, by Jeremy Higgins, £25. Now available from all major retailers and book stores.