• Simon Biggs

24 Royal Marine Cadets Killed - Gillingham/ Chatham Bus Tragedy


Marching at the side of the road in full uniform were 52 members of the Chatham Royal Marine Cadet Corps, aged between 9 and 13 a bus came upon the cadets and did not see them. The driver crashed into them and continued to drive over the bodies; as a result 24 of them died and 18 were injured.

The company was marching from Melville Barracks to the Royal Naval Barracks, Chatham, to attend a boxing tournament. It was divided into three platoons; the rear platoon consisted of new recruits who had not yet received uniforms. The only adult present was the contingent adjutant, a regular Royal Marines officer.

The column was about fifteen yards long and was marching three abreast on the left-hand side of the road. It was showing no lights, there being no official requirement to do so, and the boys in uniform were wearing Royal Marines standard-issue dark blue battledress and berets, although they had white belts and white lanyards on their shoulders.

Seventeen boys died immediately and another seven died later in hospital, all but one on the same night. Those who were uninjured were all in the front ranks. The military funeral of twenty of the boys who died was held at Rochester Cathedral on 12 December 1951 and conducted by the Bishop of Rochester.

The Last Parade - Play Video (You Tube)

Thousands of local people stood outside the cathedral and lined the route of the funeral procession to Gillingham Cemetery. Royal Marines guarded the coffins and acted as pall bearers and the ceremony was attended by, among others, the Commandant-General Royal Marines. Three of the boys who were Roman Catholics had a separate funeral at the Church of Our Lady, Gillingham, conducted by the Bishop of Southwark Cyril Cowderoy.

'Their names do not appear on the National Roll of Honour and they were very young but they wore their uniforms with pride. To us they also were “Royals”.' [Unknown]

The boys who died were:

JOHN BURDETT - 10 DAVID TICKNER - 11 JOHN THORNDYCROFT - 11 WILLIAM STONE - 12 JAMES SHEPHERD - 11 JAMES SCOTT - 9 ALBERT ROSE - 11 RICHARD ONGLEY - 11 GARTH MOSSOP - 11 RODNEY McBRIDE - 11 JOHN LEE - 10 PETER EYRE - 11 ALLAN EVANS - 11 RAYMOND CROSS - 10 DAVID CHARLES - 13 ARTHUR CALVERT - 11 BRIAN BUTLER - 11 JAMES BLOMELEY - 9 COLIN BATTY - 12 JAMES CUNNINGHAM - 12 LAURENCE MURPHY - 12 KEITH WALKER - 12 ANTHONY AINDOW - 13 JAMES TRIGG - 13

Every year on the Sunday closest to the event, the Chatham Marine Cadet Unit still holds a memorial parade at the cemetery in which the cadets were laid to rest.

Image: Chatham Marine Cadet's Plaque and graves in the Naval section of the cemetery, Woodlands Road

Search Memorials here; www.RoyalMarinesHistory.com

#RoyalMarineCadets #GillinghamBusDisaster

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