Evelyn Higga

Workday Wednesday – Walter Duncan Burt (1904-1967)

Walter Duncan Burt is my wife’s 4th cousin 1x removed – so not especially close. Their common ancestor is John Aspley (my wife’s 4x great grandfather).

Walter was born on 28 July 1904 in Hanford, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire. His parents are Robert Duncan Burt and Mary Elizabeth Hollins.

Sometime in the second quarter of 1930 Walter married Evelyn Higgs.

In the 1939 Register Walter and Evelyn are living at 107 Wilson Road, Stoke on Trent. Walter is working on the railway as locomotive fireman. Living two doors away at 111 Wilson Road is Walter’s sister Lucy Ellen and her husband Thomas Wilson Critchlow.

Sadly Walter was killed on 28 February 1967 when the train he was driving was involved in the Stechford rail crash at Stechford railway station in the area of Stechford, Birmingham.

A total of nine people were killed in the crash – an inquest was opened and adjourned on Thursday 2 March 1967. The Birmingham Daily Post of Friday 3 March 1967 ran the following story (image from http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk).

Walter Duncan Burt - Birmingham Daily Post 3 March 1967.png

Many inquiries into rail deaths – Coroner

The inquests on the nine people killed in the Stechford train crash on Tuesday, were adjourned yesterday for further inquiries to be made.
Opening the inquests the Birmingham City Coroner, Mr George Billington, said: “The inquests upon these nine victims of this terrible tragedy will have to be adjourned to a date to be fixed because there are many inquiries which have got to be made.”
After hearing formal evidence of identification, the coroner gave permission for the funerals to take place as soon as the relatives wished.
One of the witnesses, a Coventry man who saw his wife killed in the crash, broke down and wept while giving evidence and had to be helped from the courtroom.
He was Mr John Graham Costigan, of Yewdale Crescent, Potters Green, who said he was travelling with his 22-year-old wife, Sylvia, on the electric train from New Street, Birmingham to Coventry when the train was involved in a collision.
His wife was dead on arrival at East Birmingham Hospital.
The nine victims of the crash were: The driver of the electric train, Mr Walter Duncan Burt, aged 62, of Wilson Road, Stoke on Trent; Sylvia Ann Costigan, aged 22, of Yewdale Crescent, Coventry; Mr Carl Adrian Perry, aged 17, a student, of Prince of Wales Road, Coventry; Mr Gerald Richard Oliver Gilbert, aged 56, stockbroker of Belvedere Road, Coventry; Mr Rajindir Singh, aged 15, student, of Bryn Road, Coventry; Mr Mohinder Singh, aged 17, shop assistant, of Foleshill Road, Coventry; Mrs Joan Lilian Smith, aged 23, of Ash Road, Stockingford, Nuneaton; Mr Michael Hubert Asquith Batten, aged 22, architectural student, of South Avenue, Stoke Park, Coventry; and Mrs Ethel Elisabeth Gleave, aged 49, housewife, of Allesley Old Road, Coventry.
The condition of Mr Alfred Hollins, of Bath Street, Rugby, one of three people still detained at East Birmingham Hospital after the crash, was said yesterday to have improved.
The conditions of the other two, Miss Lilian Le Rose, of Chapel Lane, Hadfield, Glossop, Derbyshire, and Mrs Hilda Mayhew, of Pearson Avenue, Bell Green, Coventry, remained satisfactory.
The Minister of Transport has appointed Col. D McMullen, chief inspecting officer of railways, to hold an inquiry into the crash.
It will be held at the Midland Hotel, Birmingham, next Thursday.

It then took a further 15 months before the outcome of the inquiry was made public.

The following article is from the Aberdeen Evening Express of 23 May 1968 (image from http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk).

Walter Duncan Burt - Aberdeen Evening Express - 23 May 1968.png

Four blamed for rail death crash

FOUR RAILWAYMEN were today blamed for a rail crash near Birmingham last year in which nine people died.
The crash – at Stechford (Warwicks.) – occurred when an express electric train and a diesel shunting engine collided on February 28, 1967

In his report to the Minister of Transport, Colonel D McMullen, Chief Inspecting officer of railways, says the diesel was making an unauthorised move across main lines from a branch line.
The move was being made without authority from the New Street power box, and was said to be tacitly agreed to by local signalman   C H Curtis (64).
Curtis, says the report, must accept a share of the responsibility for the result.
Head shunter R H J Tolster – who knew the diesel’s move was unauthorised – was “seriously to blame.”
He was negligent in not coming to a clear understanding with the diesel’s driver, Mr H D Garrett (49), as to what movements were to be made.


An alternative route for the diesel was said to have been suggested by Tolster to Curtis, but Tolster did not press the point – probably because he realised it would cause delay and he thought the diesel’s crew were anxious to get home, the report says.
The report says that Curtis was not in a position to give Tolster an order not to carry out the movement, but he did not exercise the authority of his age and nearly 4o years experience to dissuade Tolster.
Driver Garrett and his second man, B K Sugden (27), were both at fault in failing to come to a clear understanding with the traffic staff about an unsignalled movement such as the one they made.
Both were also at fault in failing to comply with instructions regarding the position of the second man in the locomotive.
The report clears the New Street power box signalman, Mr R W Bradbury (60), and the driver of the express, Mr Walter Duncan Burt (62), who was killed, from any blame.
There was no failure of the modern signalling equipment the report adds.

I hope the family of Walter were able to get some comfort from the report and the fact that no blame was attached to him for the accident. Nevertheless it must have been a very bad period for everyone involved.

Here is a full version of the inquiry report by Cololnel McMullen.