The Station in Wartime

Sunday, 8th November 2020

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THE STATION IN WARTIME

The use of the station at Richmond by the armed forces started from the time that the town was connected to the national railway network in 1846. In the early days, the station was used both by troops stationed at the barracks (now Garden Village) and volunteer units coming to the town for their annual camp, usually on the racecourse.

Use of the Richmond Station pre-WW1. Four Northumberland Fusiliers arriving for camp at the racecourse in 1910

World War I brought major changes to Richmond Station following the creation of Catterick Camp in 1915. Covering some 25 square miles, and housing up to 40,000 troops at one time, it generated large amounts of both passenger and freight traffic. To handle this the passenger platform was extended to handle long troop trains and in 1917 a new road was built by German prisoners of war from the bridge over the Swale through the station yard to Catterick Camp. This was called Rimmington Avenue after the General commanding Catterick Camp at the time.

Richmond Station was a busy place, with troops proceeding overseas, soldiers returning on leave and workers on war work. In addition to the normal livestock traffic, for example, the North Eastern Railway conveyed 134,028 horses required for the army, and many would have been handled at Richmond. There would have been an army Railway Traffic Officer (RTO) based at Richmond, probably in the Station Master’s office (now the Boardroom). Military traffic continued even after the war ended in 1918 when troops were being demobilised and large amounts of redundant equipment was stockpiled at Catterick Camp

WWI. The military funeral of an officer in 1916 - coffin being loaded through parcels traffic door (Now Screen 2 fire exit)

Richmond Station was even busier during World War II, as Catterick Camp was again expanded and in addition to the barracks in Richmond, a large training base was built on Gallowfields (Now the Trading Estate) housing three Royal Signals training regiments. In addition, the RAF constructed an airfield between Catterick Bridge and Scorton. The RTO again took over the Station Masters office and there was an additional army office in a hut under the Port Cochere. Not only British, but Canadian, Polish and other foreign troops used the station and it continued to be heavily used by the army, even after the war, during the days of National Service, until this ended in 1963.

During the wartime years Richmond Station would have witnessed many moving scenes, whether it be troops going off to war, soldiers returning home on leave or prisoner of war returning home after the conflict. It was a very different place to the peaceful setting we see today.

John Young, Heritage Volunteer