From the Cheltenham Chronicle, 14 July, 1906.
FULL SPEED TO DEATH.
FEARFUL MOTOR-’BUS DISASTER
HOLIDAY PARTY HURLED TO DESTRUCTION.
NINE KILLED, TWENTY-SEVEN INJURED.
SOME WONDERFUL ESCAPES.
"SCENE MORE TERRIBLE THAN A BATTLEFIELD."
A dreadful accident happened on Thursday at Handcross Hill, on the
Brighton-road, to a "Vanguard" motor-'bus which was conveying a picnic
party from Orpington to Brighton. Nine persons were killed and
The 'bus had been chartered by Mr. Hoar, of Orpington, to carry
thirty-six person, tradesmen in the town, members of the fire brigade
and their friends—for a day's excursion, and it left
their friends—for a day's excursion, and it left London early in the
morning, driven by Henry Blake. At Orpington the passengers were picked
up about eight o'clock, and the vehicle made a pleasant and uneventful
journey until shortly after eleven o'clock.
It had then passed through Crawley, and had come to the summit of
Handcross Hill, a steep and tortuous declivity some thirty-four miles
from London. There are notices on the roadside warning drivers and
cyclists of the danger attending the descent of this hill, and, indeed,
all who use the road are familiar with the peril presented at this
point. Blake is an experienced driver, and he was no doubt well aware of
the necessity for caution.
At the top of the hill, however, it appeared that an accident happened
to the machinery, portions of which were snapped and fell on the
roadway, where they were afterwards found. The vehicle was at once
placed beyond control, and the brakes failed to arrest the momentum
which the 'bus had acquired.
Most of the passengers were on the top enjoying the fresh morning air
and the exquisite views of the country, and they were greatly alarmed by
the gathering rapidity with which the 'bus rushed down the hill, swaying
ominously and raising clouds of dust. The driver was powerless, and the
unfortunate picnic party had not the opportunity to escape.
The only hope of averting a catastrophe was that the 'bus might be
safety steered down the winding slope, until it arrived on the level
ground below, where it might be brought to a standstill. This, however,
was not to be. About 100 yards beyond the thirty-fourth mile post the
vehicle, travelling at a terrific pace, swerved and dashed into a tree.
The force of the collision was so great that the body of the ‘bus was
torn off the base and shattered. The wrecked vehicle had not quite
exhausted the momentum it had acquired, and it seems to have plunged
forward and fallen half over through the thin hedge and lay a broken
mass on the edge of a gentle slope at the side of a wood.
The awful effects of the disaster in that quiet country lane can hardly
be pictured. The passengers on the roof of the 'bus were pitched in all
directions. One man was thrown against a tree, his head was horribly
smashed, and his body was entangled in the branches, where he hung
Another was also caught by the branches and suspended high above his
dead companion. Blood was spattered on the trunk, and there were other
grisly evidences of the dreadful effects of the impact of the bodies
against the tree.
PRISONED IN WRECKAGE.
The wreckage of the 'bus was scattered all round in the roadway and in
the soft mould of the plantation. In the heaps of shattered woodwork and
broken glass many of the unhappy pleasure- seekers were imprisoned. Some
of them had passed beyond pain, succumbing almost instantly to injuries
which were in some cases frightful to contemplate.
The living, imprisoned in the wreckage or lying maimed by the roadside,
filled the air with groans and cries, but there was none to aid thorn
except a cyclist, Mr. Clark, who was attached to the "Daily Chronicle"
staff, and had been riding in the wake of the 'bus. He hastened to alarm
the people in the adjacent village of Handcross, through which the ’bus
had just raised, and speedily assistance was forthcoming.
Messengers were sent in all directions, doctors and nurses were
summoned, and all that willing hands could do was done. The telephone
was set to work, and even from the County Hospital at Brighton there
came a stall of nurses in a motor car. They found a scene of desolation.
By a miracle the driver escaped serious injury, though the conductor was
very badly hurt. Several of the dead had sustained terrible fractures of
the skull, and among the wounded were many bad cases of fractured limbs.
It was indeed marvellous that any escaped, but a few were fortunate
enough to get free from the peril with nothing more serious than cuts
and bruises. Those who were inside the 'bus were crushed by the
collapsing woodwork and cut by the breaking glass.
The doctors gave attention to the most serious cases first, and broken
limbs were bound up in temporary fashion. Then, on gates, bits of the
broken 'bus, and other improvised stretchers, the wounded were carried
up the hill strait to the little "Red Lion Hotel" at Handcross. The
ambulances from Crawley Cottage Hospital came on the scene, and assisted
in the work of removal, and several of the sufferers were conveyed to
As the news spread, there was no lack of willing helpers, and the people
hurried to the scene from all the points within a radius of several
miles. The catastrophe naturally caused the greatest excitement in this
placid district, and probably more people assembled in the narrow road
than had ever been seen there at one time before.
A SURVIVOR'S STORY.
MANAGER OF THE EXCURSION TELLS A DREADFUL TALE.
Mr. T. C. Hoar, a cycle and motor engineer, of Orpington, who organised
the excursion, gave a Press representative the following vivid
description of the disaster and the circumstances which led up to it:—
"It is the custom," he said, "of the Orpington and St. Mary Fire Brigade
to have an annual outing. And this year we decided that it would be a
novelty to have a trip in a motor-'bus to Brighton. Three days ago I
hired a Vinguard motor-omnibus from the London Motor-Omnibus Co., and
arranged for a party of thirty-four, including some of the principal
tradesmen of Orpington and St. Mary Cray, as well as members of the fire
"A jollier, merrier party than that which left Orpington at eight o'clock
this morning you could scarcely imagine. We were all men, with the
exception of one little boy, Hutchings, the son of a St. Mary Cray
"We travelled by way of Croydon at a steady pace of twelve miles an
hour. All proceeded well until we reached the "Red Lion Inn" at the top
of Handcross Hill. We had brought with us a few sandwiches and some
bottles of ale and soda water.
"By the time we reached the "Red Lion" we had all had our lunch, and
everybody seemed in the highest spirits and commenting on the lovely
nature of the surrounding scenery. So lovely did the fields and woods
appear in the warm sunshine that several of the party who were inside
the 'bus climbed outside and stood to better appreciate their beauty.
"I was sitting inside with Pennington, Mewes, Foster, Walton, Jennings,
Yeates, Knowler, Dengate, and Hayward. Dengate was standing at the back
of the car talking to Ewens, the conductor.
TRAVELLING LIKE LIGHTNING.
"On starting down the hill it appeared to me that the driver allowed the
'bus to run free for a short distance. Then it seemed as if the car had
run out of control, and I thought I felt him trying to apply the brakes.
We were going like lightning down the hill, which had a tremendously
steep Gradient. For a moment I thought he had regained control, but
suddenly there was a frightful snapping noise, and, looking back, we saw
that bits of the gear were flying out in all directions.
"For fifty yards or more we flew down the hill, and at the moment the
car crashed into an oak tree I leapt out of the window into the hedge.
The shock was terrific. The glass and woodwork broke to atoms so
instantaneously that the noise of the breaking and the thud of the
concussion with the tree were mingled in one gigantic crash. In leaping
through the window the middle finger of my left hand was broken, but I
did not seem to feel it at the time, and, scrambling on my hands, I soon
gained my feet.
"Never for a moment did I lose my consciousness, and, walking round to
the back of the shattered omnibus, I saw before me a spectacle almost
too appalling to describe. The roof of the omnibus, crowded with
occupants, had been swept away from the body of the car by a projecting
branch of the oak tree. The chassis and the battered fragments of the
car body had evidently rebounded, and swung round with the force of the
impact in a semi-circle until it pierced the hedge about thirty feet
lower down the hill, and lay with the front portion of the chassis
hanging over a bank amongst the undergrowth on the hillside wood.
WORSE THAN A BATTLEFIELD.
"Four men were lying dead in a heap, having been dashed against a tree
and horribly mangled. One poor fellow, Burch, was hanging hand
downwards, one of his feet being tightly wedged between two branches.
Two more lay dead just underneath him. All the rest of those outside the
car were shot forward into the wood. Those who were badly injured were
groaning in the most heartrending manner.
"It was twenty minutes before any assistance arrived, for there was no
human habitation in sight. Then, however, some ladiee and gentlemen, who
were on their way up to London from Brighton came in a motor-car. They
realised the serious nature of the disaster, and immediately proceeded
to the "Red Lion Hotel" at the top the hill to fetch water and bandages.
There, by an extraordinary stroke of fortune, they learned that Dr.
Mathews, of Crawley, was attending a case close by, and quickly conveyed
him to the scene. "When they arrived I was sitting by the side of the
road too dazed to help in the work of rescue. A lady whose name I do not
know came and washed me, helped me into the shade, and gave me some
brandy. Dr. Mathews, who was soon reinforced by Dr. Wood, immediately
set to work attending to the wounded.
"They worked magnificently. With great foresight they had obtained saws
with which they cut up pieces of the car for use as splints, and
improvised stretchers from the broken seats. The injured were conveyed
as speedily as possible in the vans and farm wagons, some to Crawler
Cottage Hospital, and others to the "Red Lion Hotel."
"Then began the gruesome task of moving away the dead, whose bodies were
placed in vans laid with straw, while white sheets were thrown over
them. To me fell the painful task of identifying them. This I could only
do through my knowledge of the clothes they were wearing. In some cases
their boots were the only clue; in others it was some familiar features
of their coat or waistcoat.
"I scarcely realise yet the appalling nature of what has happened. I
remember the happy jesting party which set out from Orpington, and it
seems impossible to believe that many of my life-long friends are lost
to me for ever. It is a confused medley of merriment, of disaster, of
bloodshed. One of the onlookers who went through the South African war
told me that in all his experience of those bloody battlefields he had
never seen anything as horrible as this."
A SOLITARY EYE-WITNESS.
HIS GRAPHIC STORY.
How did the accident happen? One man only witnessed the tragedy, and
that man was a "Daily Chronicle" telephone operator named Arthur Clark.
Not the least important part of Clark’s narrative is that which
practically explains the cause of the accident he makes no allegations
in the matter of speed; he brings no charges against either the driver
or the conductor.
His presence on the scene was purely fortuitous. He was cycling down to
Brighton when the omnibus overtook him. How the vehicle actually pulled
him along during the last half-hour of its journey, and how he parted
company with it just in time to save his life are here related in what
must be one of the most tragic and graphic stories that has ever been
written around a terrible accident.
THE TRAGEDY RECONSTRUCTED.
As soon as possible after the disaster he returned to London, to be
immediately taken back to Crawley, in order that the whole tragedy might
be reconstructed. Here is his narrative:—
"It must have been eight o'clock when I left home. I steered towards
Brighton. The weather was all that could have been desired, and with a
fine stretch of good hard road in front of me I quickly reached Redhill.
Just as I got through the town I heard a motor 'tooting' behind me. I
looked round and saw it was one of the 'Vanguard’ 'buses that go to
Brighton. It passed me, and I cycled on behind. It was evidently
carrying a picnic party. All the passengers were men, and everybody
seemed to be in high spirits.
"We left the town, but at a point about a mile outside the ’bus pulled
up for the convenience of some of the passengers. I went on cycling
steadily towards my destination. For some time I was alone again. To be
correct, it was not until I reached the "Chequer Inn," two or three
miles this side of Crawley, that a heavy rumbling noise and the loud
tooting of a motor-horn warned me that the 'bus was at my heels again.
Exactly where Clark "dropped" the vanguard and picked it up again he
pointed out as the motor-car sped towards the scene of the accident. At
the "Chequers" the highway turns slightly to the left, and a fine
stretch of well-laid road drops gently down to Crawley.
LUXURY OF A "TOW."
"Just about here," said Clark, "the motor-'bus overtook me for the
second time. As far as the road is concerned a cyclist couldn't wish for
"As the hand rail of the ’bus became level with my front wheel I caught
hold of it, and releasing the handle-bar allowed myself the luxury of a
'tow.' I am an expert cyclist, and am used to riding in this fashion
whenever I get the opportunity.
"But I suppose there was something novel in the performance to the
passengers on the 'bus, for the two sitting next to the entrance nudged
one another and laughed. At this moment the conductor, who had been on
top looking at the scenery, I suppose, came down, and he, too, took the
greatest interest in my performance. I also noticed that two passengers
were standing up on top. I shouted to the conductor "How many have you
got on board?" He said "Thirty four."
Did you notice whether the top of the ’bus was very crowded?"
"No. The ‘bus seemed to be pretty full, but I was so intent on what I
was doing that I took no particular stock of what was happening during
this part of the journey. I am even unable to remember whether any of
the passengers were singing. What with the dust and the noise of the
motor it was as much as I could do to look after myself.
"No. I don't think the speed at which we were travelling was anything
out of the common; at all events, not until we got to a point just
beyond the village of Handcross."
In this fashion the 'bus and the cyclist passed through Crawley, where
the road dips a little, and on to Handcross, where the gradient becomes
One would not, perhaps, call the hill dangerous, but a signal-post on
the brow warns the motorist to take heed of himself. A few yards beyond
this point Clark pointed to a gate.
"That’s where we began to travel," he said, leaning over the car to
indicate the exact spot. "I suddenly became conscious that we were
gathering speed. I can’t tell you whether any brakes were applied. I
can't even say whether there was any warning cry. I couldn’t even see
whether the passengers had risen to their feet or were looking out of
the windows to see what would happen.
FORTY MILES AN HOUR.
"The noise of the machinery seemed to increase, and the dust became
thicker as we tore down the hill. I say 'tore' because I should think we
must have been going at something like forty or fifty miles an hour.
Anyhow, we were going so fast that I became nervous, and I jammed o my
brakes. Even then I was dragged down the hill, though both wheels were
"It seemed to me to be an age till the next incident in that mad
journey. It might have been two minutes after I first noticed the
tremendous speed of the motor; it might have been less. Anyhow, it was
too much for me. I let go the hand-rail of the 'bus and began to pull my
"Suddenly I heard a crack. The 'bus was speeding down the hill in front
of me, and before I could avoid it I had ridden pell-mell over what
looked like a bit of an axle with a little wheel on one end of it.
"I had barely time to right myself, when my bicycle tripped over three
more pieces of machinery. The impact buckled up my front wheel and
nearly threw me off, but I managed to retain my balance and spring to
On the journey Clark pointed out that part of the road where these
incidents took place. It was pretty obvious what had happened next. A
hundred yards ahead—about twenty yards beyond the thirty-fourth
mile-stone from London—lay all that was left of the motor-'bus and the
A FEARFUL SIGHT.
"No sooner had I sprung to the ground than I looked up to see where the
'bus was going, but it was now swallowed up in a heavy cloud of dust. I
was not kept long in suspense. There was a crash, a rending of timber, a
terrible wrenching and splintering—and then silence.
"Shouldering my machine, I ran on, and came upon a sight that turned me
cold—a man lying stark and stiff in the ditch on the near side of the
road. No need to stop; he was beyond assistance. He had evidently made a
desperate leap for life and fallen upon his head.
"Then a curious thing happened. Out of the dust a hat whizzed past my
head I stumbled on, and nearly ran into what looked like a
"How the 'bus had fallen I couldn’t tell. I could make out the sides of
it, standing up like ribs. The top had vanished. The driver's seat was
hidden by the hedge, through which the ’bus had pitched, stopping as the
steering front sort of dropped into the dyke. All the rest seemed to
have been flattened out. It didn’t look like a bus.
"A big tree was scraped, evidently by the collision, and upon two of its
branches hung a couple of bodies, one with its head bashed in.
"At the foot of the tree a man was sitting. He might have been dead. His
head was sunk upon his chest. He seemed to be done for.
SEARCH FOR AID.
"There were other bodies lying about, all of them bathed in blood. I
couldn't stop to look at it all. I shut out the horrible sight and
rushed on, turning once to about to some men in a brickfield.
"On I ran till I overtook A trap. 'Where’s the nearest doctor?' I
shouted to the driver. He told me one could be had at Crawley, so I
asked him if he'd take me back in his trap.
"Thus I was compelled to see it all again. This time as I passed by the
silence I had left behind me had given place to groans.
"Two or three men were walking aimlessly about as if in dreams. One
seemed to be quite unconscious of his condition, though he was
mechanically wiping the blood from his forehead.
"Another, stretched on the ground, seemed to be talking quietly to
himself. 'I wonder where my arm has gone to?' I heard him say. He hadn't
lost his arm. It might have been broken.
"Another man was horribly doubled up, and yet another staggered from the
wrecked 'bus as I drove past.
"But most pitiful of all was a little boy running about amongst the
blood and wreckage, crying 'Where's my daddy? Where’s my daddy?' Hither
and thither he ran, looking now at one and then another of the injured,
but only to be disappointed in his quest. 'No, that isn't him,’ I heard
the poor little mite say as he looked at one mangled corpse.
"I couldn't stand any more. We drove on, and by the time we reached
Crawley women with towels and men with anything likely to be useful were
running down the hill. I didn't go back. I had seen enough."
LIST OF THE VICTIMS.
THE KILLED AND INJURED.
There were thirty-six persons on the 'bus, including the driver and
conductor, and they are accounted for as follows:—
Killed (9).—John French, publican, the "Cross," 81, Mary Cray; Thomas
Francis, baker, Wellington-road, Oprington, Arthur Savage, baker,
High-street, St. Mary Cray; W. Vann, draper, High-street, St. Mary Cray;
Henry Hutchings, undertaker, Thomas Cross, St. Mary Cray; W. Baker,
clothier, High-street, St. Mary Cray; Solomon Epsom, butcher, Fordcroft,
Orpington; Henry Burch, grocer, High-street, Orpington; Edward Packman,
basket maker, The Library, St. Mary Cray.
Dangerously injured (8).— W. E. Bailey, school-master, Chelsfield; J.
Pugh, schoolmaster, Moorfield-road, Orpington; Frank Kwens, conductor of
the motor-omnibus, Hammersmith.
Seriously injured (7).— C. Fulcher, independent gentleman, Chelsfield-lane,
Orpington; S. Croft, tradesman, St. Mary Cray; Horace Hyslop, bootmaker,
Wellington House, St. Mary Cray; E. Teer, artisan, St. Mary Cray; —,
Pringle, Orpington; —. Mansfield, cultivator, Ramsden, St Mary Cray; J.
Dengate, grocer's manager, High-street, Orpington.
Slightly injured (17).— Edward Smith, artisan, Chislehurst-road,
Orpington; John Wale, wheelwright, High-street, Orpington; Thomas Mews,
verger, High-street, Orpington, F. Tapping,
school teacher, Dunton Green; Edward Yeates, saddler, Orchard-grove,
Orpington; Thomas Walton, gardener, The Nest, High-street, Orpington; J.
Jennings, landlord, "Cricketers Inn," Chislehurst-road, Orpington; J
Pennington, landlord, "Artichoke Inn," Orpington; T. C. Hoar, cycle
agent, High-street, Orpington; Stephen Johnson, draper, Belgrave House,
St. Mary Cray; John Foster, jobmaster, High-street, Orpington; George Stemp,
greengrocer, Moorfield-road, Orpington; W. Glassup, plumber,
High-street, Orpington; J. Knowles, bootmaker, Moorfield-road,
Orpington; William Hutchings, junr, The "Cross," St. Mary Cray; H. G. Blakeman, driver of the motor-'bus, 136 Albany-street, Regent's Park;
Joseph Hayward, labourer, Little Bentley, Essex.
THE COURAGE OF THE PASSENGERS.
A JUMP FOR LIFE.
A thrilling story was related by Charles Dengate, a grocer's manager, of
Orpington, who now lies in the Crawley Cottage Hospital with his head
swathed in bandages.
"I was riding on top of the 'bus," he said. "I was one of those who were
standing up. It had occurred to me some time before the accident that
the bus was top-heavy, and I spoke to the conductor about it. So far as
I could judge there were only about ten inside. The conductor said he
thought there was no danger, and, feeling reassured, I didn't trouble
any more about the
"When we were descending Handcross Hill somehow I felt that something
was about to happen. The car seemed to be going at a tremendous speed,
and it was rocking about.
Getting alarmed, I ran down the steps, and it seems a good thing that I
did so. When I got o to the platform, the conductor shouted 'Look out.
The brakes have gone!"
"Without another thought I jumped from the 'bus. Oh! my poor head. I
felt as if I had been struck by a cannon. There on the stones I law
down. I never really lost consciousness. A few moments afterwards some
workmen came running across the road. I motioned them on to the others
further down the hill, because I knew I was not hurt as badly as some."
"I never heard the shrieks. From the moment when danger first threatened
everyone seems to have been extremely courageous.
SURVIVORS RETURN HOME.
Consternation and the profoundest sorrow filled the two villages of
Orpington and St. Mary Cray.
When the news of the terrible affair reached the residents. Only a few
miles separates the two hamlets, and the population is sufficiently
sparse to allow of a more or less intimate acquaintance with each other.
Especially is this the case with the more prominent men, the leaders in
local life, and most of the killed and injured were of that class. many
of the men were leading tradesmen, and were all known by name to almost
everyone in the district.
When the news of the accident came there was a widespread feeling of
dismay and pain, for it had been only a few hours earlier that the happy
company left Orpington on their holiday jaunt.
The first to receive the news was a young fellow, assistant to Mr. T. C.
Hoar, a cycle maker, of Orpington, who arranged the excursion. The
telegram was meagre in its tomes, and did not convey any idea of the
nature or extent of the mishap. But little by little and hour after hour
news came dropping in, and gradually the full horror of the affair was
Every survivor of the terrible affair who was able to send a message did
so, but they adopted a most touching method of conveying the news and of
stating their condition. In no single case do they appear to have
telegraphed direct to their wives or relatives. Instead they wired to
some friend, who undertook the delicate task of informing the wife that
an accident had occurred, but that her husband was alive and suffering
only from some slight injury.
To take an instance, Mrs. Glossop, of Orpington, whose husband had a
broken arm, was in happy unconsciousness that anything untoward had
happened until a neighbour told her, and then to convince her that her
husband was safe produced his laconic telegram. It was the same in other
cases, and it is impossible not to admire the delicate confederation
for the feelings of others which prompted this course.
With one exception, all the victims were married men with families, and
this circumstance added to the poignancy of the regrets for the dead.
Thursday was early-closing day in Orpington, and St. Mary Cray, and
every shop in the two villages was closed for business. An outward
condition of mourning was therefore set up, and although it was quite
involuntary it had a most fitting application to the circumstances.
The first thing which occurred to a stranger was the kindly familiarity
with which all the victims were spoken of—dead and injured. Thus one was
"Poor Ted" or "Good old Fred," or some other affectionate title. And the
two villages were full of people, who were congratulating themselves on
having neglected or rejected an opportunity of joining the ill-fated
HOW MOTOR-'BUS WAS CHOSEN.
The circumstances under which the trip was arranged are worth recalling.
They are almost dramatic in the manner in which the excursionists chose
to go by motor-'bus instead of by train This is an annual outing with
certain of the trades-people of the two villages, but hitherto they have
always gone by rail. Recently, however, the usual committee meeting was
held to arrange the preliminaries, and H. T. Harris a tailor, of St.
Mary Cray, presided.
It was then suggested that the party should go by motor-’bus instead of
by train. A vote was taken, which ended in a tie; six favouring the
motor and six the train.
Mr. Harris, as chairman, was asked to give his vote from train to
motor-'bus, and, yielding to the persuasions of his friends, he did so.
"Ted" Packman in now numbered among the dead.
That is the story of the choice of a motor-'bus instead of train by the
JOY AND SORR0W.
Following upon the arrival of the news came to the villages those
survivors who were able to travel, and the scenes which followed were of
the most affecting character. Joy and sorrow seemed to mingle in equal
proportions. Laughter and tears chased each other of the villagers as
they turned out to welcome the safely returned. The first to arrive was
Mr. J. Wale, a young man of thirty, who reached Orpington at six o’clock
in the evening. A body of villagers between 200 and 300 strong went to
the station to receive him.
Precedence was naturally given to his wife and sister, and when Wale
stepped out of the train, he almost fell into the arms of these two fond
women. He was very weak and faint, and he leaned on their arms as he
made his way from the station. In spite of their feelings of
commiseration for the dead, the villagers could not help cheering the
living, and they cheered Wale as he slowly and painfully made his way
home to his pretty cottage in Elm-terrace.
LEAP FOR LIFE.
He was too weak and ill to be interviewed, but Mrs. Wale told an
interesting story of her husband's escape. "He was on the top of the
motor," said Mrs. Wale—a pleasant-faced, rather nervous woman, "and when
it bolted down the hill he knew that something terrible was going to
happen. So he came half-way down the steps and then jumped into the
road. I am thankful to say that he got off with only two cuts on his
head. They are pretty ugly, however, and when he came home his coat was
covered with blood."
Some strange stories are told in the village of how certain persons
missed going with the trip. One of the most remarkable is told by Mr.
Barr, the landlord of the "White Hart Inn" at Orpington. He had arranged
to join the party, but on Monday last his wife was taken ill, and he
decided to remain at home. Then a woman who does some housework at the
inn offered to look after Mrs. Barr's work for the day, and again Mr.
Barr arranged to go in the 'bus.
The next incident was the illness of his head man, and again Mr. Barr
decided not to go to Brighton. However, the difficulty was overcome, and
again Mr. Barr intimated his intention of joining the excursion.
For the third time his plans were upset by the receipt of an intimation
that one of the directors of the brewery which supplies him would call
on Thursday, the day of the accident. So Mr. Barr was obliged to stay in
Orpington, and is congratulating himself now on his luck.
All Thursday evening the streets of the two villages and the long and
pleasant Kentish lanes which join them were full of villagers discussing
the catastrophe. They stood on their doorsteps and loitered by the
hedges, and they had nothing but good to say of any of the ill-fated
One of the earliest to return was the little boy Hutchins, the son of a
tradesman at St. Mary Cray. It was he who called so piteously for his
"dada" when the accident happened. He was in a quite dazed condition
when he got home. His father was then lying dead at Handcross. The child
was put to bed, sobbing and crying for his dead parent.
The last of the survivors reached Orpington shortly after ten o'clock,
and there was again a big crowd to welcome them. Most of them were
attended by Dr. Tennyson-Smith, of Orpington, and are progressing
CONDITION OF THE SURVIVORS.
Happily no addition has to be made to the list of the nine killed as the
result of Thursday's terrible motor-'bus accident at Handcross, Mr.
Bailey, the village schoolmaster, however, still lies in a very critical
condition. He has a fractured left leg, but the more serious trouble to
the injury to his lungs caused by broken ribs, Oxygen has been
administered to the patient throughout the night. Mr. Croft, the only
other patient lying at Handcross, has had concussion, but he has
The six patients in the Crawley Hospital, namely Hayward, Knowles,
Glassup, Pugh, Dengate, and Edward Smith, are doing well, though Pugh
and Dengate are very bad.
The wreckage was gathered together during the night and conveyed to the
yard of the "Red Lion Hotel," where the inquest will probably be held.
On enquiry at Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, to which some of the
injured were conveyed, it was ascertained that Mr. Mansfield had passed
a comfortable night. Another of the injured, whose name is not known, is
still unconscious, and in a very precarious condition.
The afternoon bulletins show no change in the condition of the injured
at either Handcross, Crawley, or Brighton. All are doing as well as can
NINE DEATHS ONLY
A telegram from Handcross at one o'clock says — Happily the report of
the death-roll having swollen to ten through Conductor Ewens succumbing
to his injuries is unfounded. Ewens sustained a compound fracture of the
skull, and it was deemed advisable by the medical men to remove him to
Brighton Hospital, so that the operation of trepanning could be
performed. He was according conveyed there on Thursday night, together
with Mansfield, whose leg was fractured. Both men are reported to be
doing as well as can be expected, although Ewens is still unconscious.
At the “Red Lion Inn,” Handcross, only two of the injured men remain,
viz. Mr. W. Bailey, schoolmaster of St. Mary Cray, and Mr Croft. Bailey,
who sustained internal injuries has been assiduously attended throughout
the night by Dr. Sidney Matthews, being kept alive by oxygen. He is
maintaining his strength. His wife has been with him since Thursday
evening, and two nurses from Brighton, as well as Drs. Dickens, of
Cowfold, and Newton, of Balcombe, are now watching Bailey and his
fellow-patient Croft. The latter is doing well, and this morning was
joined by his wife and brother-in-law.
The relatives of the injured who are arriving at Crawley and Handcross
from Orpington tell distressing stories of the grief prevailing there.
The whole district of Orpington and St. Mary Cray is in mourning, for
the deceased tradesmen were well known in the place, and their death has
come as an acute personal loss to many people. The utmost sympathy is
felt for the immediate relatives, and it is feared that the widows of
Savage and Vann may themselves succumb to collapse, following on the
shock caused by their husbands’ untimely demise. Mrs. Savage has eight
children, and is shortly expecting to give birth to a ninth; whilst Mrs.
Vann is also anticipating an addition to her now fatherless family of
Mr Robert John Pugh, headmaster of Wellington road School, Orpington, is
going on very well at Crawley Cottage Hospital, where his wife had
arrived to see him. The utmost kindness is being shown to the injured
and their relatives by the people of the district. The Sheriff of Sussex
has sent a kindly message of sympathy to the injured, who have been
visited by Lady Loder, Lady Brabourne, and the Hon. Mrs. Sergison, the
latter of whom conveyed relatives from Crawley to Hardcross in her
Many relatives of the dead are here, one man cycling throughout the
night, and sad scenes have been witnessed as the bodies have been
THE INQUEST FIXED.
The coroner for the district has decided to hold the inquest on the
victims of the disaster at Handcross at three o'clock on Saturday
afternoon, but the proceedings will be confined to hearing evidence of
identification, so as to enable the funerals to take place The inquiry
will then be adjourned for the recovery of material witnesses now lying
ill, and for the calling of expert evidence.
No cause can yet be assigned for the ‘bus running away, and
representatives of the Vanguard Company at the scene of the disaster
decline to give an opinion until the engineers have had an opportunity
of examining the wrecked conveyance, which now stands in the yard of the
“Red Lion Hotel,” whither it was dragged during the night. The vehicle
is the object of much curiosity on the part of motorists on the Brighton