Our Century

11 die in Staffs rail disaster

Staffs Rail Disaster
Crumpled carriages at the scene of the rail disaster at Hixon, near Stafford, in January 1968.

Eleven people died and 27 were seriously hurt when a packed passenger train travelling from Manchester to Euston crashed into an abnormal load on a level crossing in Staffordshire.

The crash, which became know as the Hixon Rail Disaster, happened as the low loader was being driven across one of the new continental style level crossings.

Rescue and salvage teams worked all day and night throughout the second weekend of 1968 in the grim search both for bodies and for clues as to how the crash happened.

Witnesses said the 150-tron transformer on the low loader reached the crossing and started to go over.

The driver saw the train coming and accelerated in an attempt to get clear of the oncoming express but the load seemed to stop just before the train hit it, said eye witness Mrs Cynthia Russell.

One of the heroines of the disaster turned out to be GP Dr Ann Foster from the nearby village of Great Haywood.

She gave pain killing injections and comfort to the stricken passengers after turning up to be met by the full horror of the crash.

In an uncanny coincidence it was the second train crash in the Midlands that weekend with 36 people being hurt as two passenger trains collided under a bridge at Crocketts Lane, Smethwick.

Astle bags Cup for Albion

Albion Skipper Graham Williams
Albion skipper Graham Williams, was the first into the fray to give the fans a real close-up of the trophy, just before Baggies fans packed the streets of West Bromwich for the tour of triumph by the players.

There were 100,000 at the match but more than twice that many for the homecoming as the fans and players of West Bromwich Albion celebrated their fifth - and to date last - victory in the FA Cup.

On May 18 the Baggies beat the favourites Everton 1-0 with a Jeff Astle goal in extra time.

Skipper Graham Williams was presented with the cup by Princess Alexandra after a match which not even their most loyal fans would have described as a classic.

Powell's 'rivers of blood' speech ignites the race debate: It was a year of enormous political upheaval and unrest with the Russian occupation of Czechoslavakia and student riots across Europe.

Enoch PowellHere maverick politican and Wolverhampton South West MP Enoch Powell lit the blue touch paper of a race relations powder keg in an extraordinary speech to the West Midlands area Conservative Political Centre in Birmingham.

In his highly colourful "rivers of blood" speech he attacked the emigration of coloured people into Britian and warned that whole towns - particularly those in the West Midlands - could become "immigrant occupied"

He called for an immediate reduction followed by urgent encouragement of re-emmigration.

It was like watching the nation "busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre", he declared.

He went on: "We must be mad, literally mad as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependents."

The outburst cost him his job as shadow defence minister as he had not cleared the speech with his party leader Edward Heath.

It led to a huge polarisation of views on the issue which had been reaching boiling point in Wolverhampton and the Black Country over many years.

Where you stood was roughly defined by whether you referred to the MP by his christian or surname as in "I agree with our Enoch" or "Powell is a racist bigot".

In this area he received huge waves of support:

On the same day that books of condolence were being signed for the murdered Dr Martin Luther King a Wolverhampton working men's club voted to ban all coloured people from using the premises.

A group of protesting power station workers in Rugeley staged a lightning strike - but it was a protest not about what Enoch Powell had said but about his sacking.

First lights are put out: Wolverhampton's contribution to the history of road traffic safety was consigned to the scrapyard when metal cutting teams ripped up the first traffic lights ever erected in Britain.

The lights had been installed back in November 1927 in Princes Square and paved the way for millions of similar signals not only across the country but throughout the rest of the world.

Wolverhampton was also the first town to experiment with steel pedestrian barriers, again in Princes Square.

News in brief: Tories swept the board in by-elections in Dudley and three other seats in a sorry night for the Labour government in March.

In the same month, three wagons from a train fell onto Willenhall Road, Wolverhampton. No-one was hurt.

Birmingham's Tony Hancock, once Britain's most popular comedian, committed suicide in Sydney, Australia in June.

Stand up to pimps and pinheads . . .


Three loud ringing cheers for Mr Enoch Powell.

How right he is and what a pity we have so few like him: to wit public figures who speak the truth and call a spade a spade against so many pimps and pinheads in high places who, while knowing he is right, still pursue their vote-catching course.

But Mr Powell can be assured there are 80 per cent of of ordinary people behind him.

These uninvited guests are are no more than tolerated, not wanted, and the sooner it is appreciated the sooner it will be better for all concerned.

J Burne, Mill Lane, Codsall.

Rebecca Cartwright
... every bag, badge and T shirt was in tartan...