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Armed police challenge for Bill's rail trip amid Royal visit

By Toby Neal | Church Stretton | Features | Published:

Armed police, soldiers crawling about the place, perhaps even an anti-aircraft missile battery at the ready – what was going on?

Haunt of a Royal train? Church Stretton railway station, pictured here in about 1969.

In a recent feature Chris Magner of Bridgnorth told of the overnight stay of the new Queen on the royal train in deepest south Shropshire in October 1952, at the disused railway station of Harton Road, which served Eaton-under-Heywood.

And that has prompted Bill Kerswell, who lives near Church Stretton, to get in touch with the story of his own encounter with what appears to have been a big security operation surrounding a royal visitor on the county's rail network.

"I remember in the mid-1970s when going by train from Church Stretton railway station to a meeting in London, changing at Shrewsbury, I arrived in a van and on getting out – this was early morning – was surrounded by armed police," said Bill.

"When I produced the appointment letter for the Ministry at Marsham Street, London, they immediately apologised, but would not say what the fuss was about.

"Standing on the platform I noticed a lot of men dressed in red suits under the bridge and alongside the lines beyond looking like railway workers, but not doing anything.

"My train pulled in and I got in - and as it drew away from Church Stretton I noticed another train in the siding on the north side of the bridge, but it was surrounded by what looked like soldiers.

"Then two police in my train asked me what I was doing, and on again producing the documents they lost interest. Then a man said: 'That was the royal train.'

"Between the railway and the bypass in a field I noticed several Army Land Rovers and lorries and what looked like a Rapier anti-aircraft system, although it could have been a tent – I'm not sure.

"There must have been some major terror threat at that time for such measures to be in place, but I cannot remember exactly what."

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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