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Remembering the Severn Railway Bridge Disaster

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Today marks the anniversary of a tragedy on the River Severn which claimed the lives of five sailors.

On the night of October 25th 1960, tankers the Wastdale H and Arkendale H collided in thick fog on the River Severn near Sharpness Docks.

severn | Remembering the Severn Railway Bridge Disaster
The wrecks of the Arkendale H and Wastdale H. Picture: Matt Bigwood.

Eyewitness and author of several books about the River Severn, Chris Witts describes the tragic events of that night.

Five crewmen lost their lives when the vessels crashed into a pier of the Severn Railway Bridge, causing a span to collapse onto them. The cargo of oil and petroleum exploded, and witnesses spoke of the river being ablaze.

rail bridge | Remembering the Severn Railway Bridge Disaster
The Severn Rail Bridge, showing the missing span, brought down by the collision in 1960. Demolition of the bridge began in 1967. Picture: Brian Candy Photographic Archive.

Firefighters from across the county, including Stroud, attended the incident but the chief officer denied them permission to try to reach the stricken vessels due to the dreadful conditions.

They reached the wrecks at first light the following day to search for survivors, though without success. The bridge was demolished in the late 1960s. The wrecks of the boats can still be seen at low tide and serve as a reminder of the tragic events 62 years ago.

Video by Matt Bigwood

memorial | Remembering the Severn Railway Bridge Disaster
Memorial plaques were unveiled on both sides of the River Severn in 2010 to mark the 50th anniversary of the disaster. Picture: Matt Bigwood.

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