Most people will never notice it. They’ll be too busy on their commute, or containing their excitement as they head to the seashore. Yet it is there, and it is waiting, and it did happen.
Between Hastings and Bexhill on the south coast of England, is a tunnel; a railway tunnel. It lies just off the Bopeep Junction, and naturally enough is known as the Bopeep Tunnel. Yet it was here in a warm Autumn night in 1941 that a most peculiar thing happened. A train of 77 soldiers and 13 civilians disappeared.
It was that simple.
The train had halted at St Leonard’s Warrior Square, to let another twenty troops to board the train and then it was off to allow them to be stationed at several points along the south coast.
Except they never got there. The train left St Leonard’s at 10.31 pm and was only reported missing by Bexhill staff at 3.15am, the following morning. There were initial thoughts that the train had fallen victim to a bomb, or even sabotage, but there were no raids that evening, and no reported explosions.
To put things simply: the train had just vanished off the face of the earth.
The men from Whitehall, sat on the news and three days later released a statement that the train had been bombed and no one had survived. The statement noted that the train had been waiting in a siding at Eastbourne when it had met its fate.
It was the War and information could be, and was, controlled. No one recalled a train being destroyed at Eastbourne station, but then there were many things that couldn’t be recalled in those days.
The truth was, that a train had entered a railway tunnel from the east side and had failed to exit on the west, all with 90 souls on board.
Coffins turned up for funerals, with the proviso that no family members were to look inside: it was all due to the state of the bodies – they were mutilated.
And so the War continued and no more trains went missing at the Bo Peep tunnel.
“Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep and nobody knows where to find them….”
The story was largely forgotten, and a monument to the loss stood on the spot where the train had been destroyed by the bomb. The monument was torn down a few years ago to make way for restaurants and a carpark.
Then on the evening of October the 31st, 2017, a train driver taking the 11.40pm from London Charing Cross into Hastings noticed a light on in the signal box at Bopeep Junction.
He reported it to the staff at West St Leonard’s station, who decided it was just the usual vandals and called the police.
What the police found wasn’t any one attempting to destroy the junction box, what they found was a young man in a World War 2 uniform. When they asked him his date of birth he said the 12th of December 1922.
bobby stevenson 2017