Dear National Archives,
The file HO 144/22520, relating to the Gretna (or Quintinshill) rail disaster of 1915, has been closed for 100 years until 1 January 2017.
Despite the opening in recent years at the Scottish National Archives of previously classified documents concerning the disaster – the worst in the history of Britain's railways – HO 144/22520, retained at The National Archives in Kew, remains unavailable for public inspection, singularly classified under the 100-year rule.
There is considerable, and understandable, public interest across the UK, and especially within Scotland, in this accident, its causes and aftermath – interest which has naturally intensified as the 100th anniversary in 2015 approaches.
This interest clearly is not served by the continuing retention of HO 144/22520 as a 'closed' document and, in my submission, It is hard to see why this remains the case.
An event which occurred during the First World War can surely no longer pose any kind of threat to national security a century on, even if it was deemed to have done so at the time.
None of the individuals involved, in any way, in the accident are alive today. Release of the 'closed' documentation cannot possibly threaten their reputation, status or safety today.
However, in my view their families – both those of the many victims of the tragedy and also those of the two signalmen held wholly responsible for it – deserve to learn the full details of what happened, both during and after the event.
I feel that this is a right which should be extended to the British public as a whole in view of the unparalleled severity of the five-train collision and its effect on the nation.
The file's official release date is just five years away. I submit that opening it now for public inspection will have no material adverse affect on the nation or any living person.
This was a major historical event. It is surely time the Government and its agencies provided citizens with all the relevant facts.
Therefore, my request is for the file's status at TNA to be reviewed so that its classification as 'closed' documentation can be reversed and the contents can be opened.
Dear Mr Searle,
Thank you for your enquiry on 21 February 2012 regarding a review of the closure status of the following file:
HO 144/22520 - CORONERS AND INQUESTS: Deaths and injuries occurring in districts other than that in which the inquest is held: duplicate committals for trial in coroner's area and that in which event took place
- CRIMINAL CASES: Gretna railway disaster: duplicate committal of signalman by the Coroner in Carlisle and the Scottish authorities.
We are pleased to tell you that, in consultation with the Home Office, it has been decided that this document may now be made available at The National Archives, Kew. The file can be ordered and viewed at the National Archives from 24 March 2012.
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