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Special train to honour all of the GWR fallen

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Special train to honour all of the GWR fallen

Intercity Express Train named after Herefordshire-born Lance Corporal Allan Leonard Lewis VC and Flight Sub-Lieutenant Harold Day DSC.

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Intercity Express Train named after Allan Leonard Lewis VC and Harold Day DSC

Great Western Railway (GWR) marked 100 years since the end of the Great War by unveiling a very special train prior to a remembrance service for fallen railway workers at Paddington Station (Friday 9 November).

The Intercity Express Train features the names of all 2,545 men who worked for the GWR and died during the war, and was welcomed into London Paddington by relatives of those killed. 

The train was also named after two of those who died, Flight Sub-Lieutenant Harold Day, DSC, the only railway man to become a flying ace and Herefordshire-born Lance Corporal Allan Leonard Lewis VC, whose name had historically been omitted from the GWR Roll of Honour. Present for the ceremony were relatives of both Harold Day and Allan Leonard Lewis.

To recognise all of the lives lost, the full train has been given a distinctive design stretching over both sides of the nine carriages including the driving cabs at either end of the Intercity Express Train. The Roll of Honour features detail of where they worked for the company, their rank, regiment, where they were killed and where they are either remembered or buried. From the 2,545 names, one hundred will also feature in more detail on the train, including pictures and background stories.

Great Western Railway Deputy Managing Director Matthew Golton said:

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“The role of the railway in helping mobilise the country and sustain the war effort was immense. Over 25,000 employees of GWR volunteered to serve, a third of the company at the time. It is therefore fitting that as we remember all those who took part in this terrible conflict, we honour those of the GWR who fell.”

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Lance Corporal Allan Lewis VC's great niece Dawn Lewis next to the Intercity Express Train named in his honour

Allan Leonard Lewis' great niece Dawn Lewis said:

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“Why Allan was never included on the GWR Roll of Honour is a mystery, but I am thrilled that his extraordinary valour is now commemorated in such a spectacular and moving way.”

Those being remembered worked in all areas of the company; engineers, labourers, solicitors, carriage cleaners and apprentices from across the GWR network. At the time the network stretched from Paddington to Penzance, and as far north as Liverpool, Manchester, Chester, Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

Allan in the uniform of the Army Service Corps (c) A L Lewis VC Memorial Fund

Lance Corporal Allan Leonard Lewis VC

Allan Lewis was born Whitney-on-Wye, Herefordshire, one of nine children. He left school at thirteen to work on the land eventually becoming a gardener at Truscoed House near Llandeilo in West Wales.

Lewis always enjoyed working with machines and this led to him becoming an employee of the Great Western Railway.  He moved to Neath and after a period as a conductor he drove a GWR bus on the Pontardawe route.

Lewis joined the army in Neath in March 1915. On 18 September 1918 at Rossnoy, near Lempire, France, Lance Corporal Lewis was in command of a section on the right of the attacking line held up by intense machine gun fire. He saw that two guns were enfilading the line and crawled forward alone, successfully bombed the guns and by rifle fire made the whole team surrender. On 21 September he rushed his company through the enemy barrage, but was killed while getting his men under cover from heavy machine-gun fire. 

Lance Corporal Lewis VC - Herefordshire’s only county-born World War 1 Victoria Cross recipient - was commemorated with a stone plaque dedication at Hereford Cathedral and bronze statue at Hereford Old Market on 21 September 2018, 100 years to the day of his passing.

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