THE Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) will be using its ‘Merchant Navy’ class locomotive, no. 35006 Peninsular & Oriental SN Co to mark 100 years of the Merchant Navy on Tuesday, September, 3, at Toddington station.

The day remembers all those from various countries who served aboard civilian ships, which became known as the ‘Merchant Navy’ and who lost their lives during wars, conflicts, campaigns and peacetime disasters.

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Britain’s Merchant Navy was the largest in the world and in 1939, a third of the world’s merchant ships were British, employing around 200,000 seamen.

The locomotive, no. 35006, is a member of the Southern Railway’s ‘Merchant Navy’ class which comprised 30 locomotives, named after shipping companies both in recognition of the wartime services and sacrifices of our merchant seamen and which used the Railway’s south coast ports. 

They were the most powerful locomotives built by the Southern Railway and were designed by the controversial engineer O V S Bulleid. 

The locomotive will carry a specially-commissioned ‘Merchant Navy’ headboard and fly small Red Ensigns on its buffer beam. 

The day will start with a short remembrance service at 9.30am at Toddington station, GL54 5DT before departing with the normal 10am departure to Cheltenham Racecourse.

The engine will carry the headboard and Red Ensigns for the remainder of the day.  The service will be attended by members of the Merchant Navy Association.

Richard Johnson, chairman of GWSR, said: “Our Merchant Navy pacific, so beautifully restored by the 35006 Preservation Society, could be regarded as the ‘flagship’ of our locomotive fleet and I’m proud that we are able to recognise in this way, the contribution our merchant fleet made over many generations to the peace we enjoy in this country today.

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“It was an inspired choice to name these fine Merchant Navy class engines after the shipping lines that sacrificed so many of their vessels and crews during the Second World War.

“This will be a chance to remember them and I don’t doubt that it will be a very moving occasion.”