On this day in auto history - December 4th

Fri 4th Dec 2020

It was on this day in 1951 when Britain was stunned by tragic events in Gillingham as news filtered through that 24 people had been killed in the country’s worst ever road accident.

The disaster occurred in dark early evening and was caused by a double-decker bus ploughing straight into a group of marching Royal Marine cadets who were on their way to a local boxing tournament.

Of the 24 cadets who were killed - all aged between just nine and thirteen - 17 died at the scene, whilst a further seven died later in hospital. In addition 24 cadets were injured, some of them seriously. 

A subsequent inquest found the 57-year-old bus driver, John Samson, guilty of dangerous driving but handed out a recommendation of ‘leniency' from the jury as the accident occurred in an area where a street lamp had failed. Samson was eventually fined just £20 and banned from driving for three years.

The fallout of the tragedy resulted in improved street lightning across Medway towns and saw that all buses were fitted with single kerb spotlights in future.