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PETER GRAY: Tale of two routes for journey home on leave

By Herald Express  |  Posted: February 07, 2013

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ON the last day of February 1946, we returned from leave to Aldershot for a couple of days before being transported to Oxshott, where the War Office Selection Board was held, over the next two days, in what had been a large private house.

An interesting two days, in informal mode, a mixture of tasks, both mental and physical, several interviews, and a bit of public speaking to the group.

When we didn't get our last man over the 12 foot high wall, that was it, and sure enough, out of the 30-strong group, only three were selected to go forward for further potential officer training.

So the rest of us soon found ourselves back at Cirencester, where we were given 10 days leave, before taking up our army clerk's course.

Railwaywise, Cirencester was in some ways similar to Northampton, in it was awkward to get to/from the south west.

Despite Cirencester having two stations, on two different lines, neither line was heading south west.

The earlier one, Cirencester Town, and the one used thus far, was at the end of a short branch from Kemble, which itself lay on the original GWR main line from Swindon to Gloucester and on into south Wales.

Even to get to Bristol meant using three trains; Cirencester to Kemble, Kemble to Swindon and Swindon to Bristol, changing at Swindon from an up train to a down train, which are not likely to connect with each other.

The alternative route was to use the old Midland and South Western Junction Railway (MSWJ) line through Cirencester Watermoor station, which could be used in either direction, north to Cheltenham, there changing to a southbound LMS train from Birmingham (New Street).

A bit doubtful, as the LMS service could come from further north, with more opportunity to be running late.

Or southbound on the MSWJ line to Swindon Town, from whence a connecting service ran to Swindon Junction (the GWR station).

The problem with this line was the service was infrequent, only three through trains a day, although the northbound midday service did have a good connection into a Bristol-bound LMS train.

So for this leave journey, I stuck to the Kemble/Swindon/Bristol route, which did have the advantage of running past the length of Swindon Works. And among the many engines either about to be repaired, or resplendent in their new plain green (as opposed to wartime black) livery, were others awaiting a decision as to their future — repair or scrap.

Among the latter was an engine unique on the Great western which bore the number 13. It was one of two four-wheel Sentinel chain-driven, vertical-boilered locomotives ordered in 1926, though only No. 13 was retained.

Having spent most of its life shunting in the Park Royal trading estate, it was now at Swindon for a decision on its future.

It was officially withdrawn and sold in May 1946. I was very lucky to see it on this one occasion only.

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