To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the WWII bombing of York railway station, tributes have been paid to two railway workers who lost their lives in the raid.
Coming together for the tributes were London North Eastern Railway (LNER) and ‘Raids Over York’ heritage project. During the service of commemoration at York railway station, wreaths were laid and tributes paid.
During the service, a new plaque was unveiled to honour station foreman William Milner, and railway policeman Robert W. Smith, who both worked for the original London and North Eastern Railway. They were among 94 people killed during air raids over York in the early hours of 29 April 1942.
Hundreds of people were injured in raids by the Luftwaffe, known as the ‘Baedeker Raids’. They hit historic targets, with York one of five English cathedral cities to be bombed. The railway station was among many buildings severely damaged and was targeted for its role as a principal part of Britain’s railway network.
William Milner was killed after entering a blazing building to obtain a box of medical supplies needed to treat casualties. He was posthumously awarded the King’s Commendation for Gallantry, and a bronze plaque in his honour was unveiled at York station in the 1980s.
Recent research has found that Robert Smith was another volunteer railwayman who was killed in the raid. To mark the 80th anniversary of the raids, and to pay tribute to the men, a new plaque was placed at the station close to where the policeman lost his life.
During the early morning raids, passengers were onboard an express train in the station, as they travelled from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh, when a bomb partially demolished a cast-iron roof column and several arch ribs. Carriages were set on fire, with six being destroyed and a number removed by the Station Pilot and shunters. The Parcels and Booking offices were also gutted and platforms damaged. A nearby engine shed was also damaged by the blast and further rolling stock was destroyed.
David Horne, LNER Managing Director, said:
“We are proud to remember and honour two of our fellow railway workers, who sacrificed their own lives to help save others. On this 80th anniversary of the air raids, we recognise their bravery and the resilience of the station teams, who heroically worked to help passengers and to also ensure trains were running by the evening of the 29 April.”
John Shaw, from the Raids Over York project said:
“The air raid of 29th April was known as the ‘Baedeker’ raid in the years after it occurred. Strictly speaking, York was attacked as it was a major railway centre. Newspaper releases some three months later named many railway staff who gave assistance above and beyond their duties and we pay tribute to them. Due to the diligence of people like William Milner and Robert William Smith, York station was back in full operation within 48 hours, a true testament to their dedication.”