Thank you from the US President

A letter in the hospital’s archives, written by US President Theodore Roosevelt dated August 25th 1906, recalls the aftermath of the worst transport accident seen in the county.

On the 30th June 1906, passengers from the transatlantic liner SS United States landed in England and were transferring from Plymouth to London by train. There was much competition between boat-train companies at the time to get passengers as quickly as possible to London from the docks. So much so that, in the early hours of 1st July, the train sped through Salisbury station at nearly 70mph, derailing and colliding with an oncoming milk train. There were 28 fatalities and dozens of people injured, many of whom were US citizens. They were taken to Salisbury General Infirmary for treatment.

President Roosevelt writes,

‘I have heard so much of the generous care you have lavished upon the American sufferers in the lamentable train wreck, that I wish to write you a line of acknowledgement on behalf of our people. As one of those you took care of has written me ‘from the chaplain down to the hall boy no sacrifice has been too great’ for you to make on behalf of those who so suddenly came under your care. Thanking you from the bottom of my heart’

Records for operating theatres at Salisbury Infirmary show that Dr Luckham set and plastered 2 patients with broken legs on 1st July 1906 – W Harding (38 years) and Margaret Rusk (52 years)  – maybe these were casualties of the train accident? There is a Dudley P Harding listed on the casualty memorial in Salisbury Cathedral, a relative perhaps of patient W Harding.

A postcard in our collection shows the crowds on the station platform in the aftermath of the accident.


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