Christmas Day in 1942 was a happy day for Cpl. James H. Clifford and Miss Marion McMillan as they got engaged. The couple were returning from a happy holiday visit to Glasgow Station, near Renfrew. On December 27, 1942 the engineer of the passenger train that the couple were travelling on was unaware a troop train was was following as he approached Almonte. In twenty minutes several incidents happened: there was no 20 minute spacing behind the passenger train and the weather was bad, holiday traffic was heavy and steam was being difficult to be had for the CPR-550 passenger train. The engineer had no idea a troop train was bearing down. At 8:43 PM one of the worst train accidents happened and the rest is history.
Corporal James H. Clifford, Clifford and his fiancee, Marion McMillan, both of Westboro received serious injuries in the train wreck that claimed at least 32 lives and injured more than 200 at Almonte station that Sunday evening.
Cpl. Clifford, the first Canadian to receive his paratroop wings suffered two broken legs when the second coach from the end of the train in which he was riding with Miss McMillan was nearly demolished. Miss McMillan suffered a broken shoulder and superficial injuries in addition to shock.
Cpl. Clifford had turned down a Canadian’ Army commission some months ago, to join the paratroopers and trained at Fort Harrison, Montana. He was injured in a jump and was placed on sick leave. He was now stationed at Lansdowne Park was awaiting orders for new postings. Following the crash, Cpl. Clifford was placed in the C.P.R. hospital hospital train with his fiancee.
An Almonte priest telephoned his brother, George, in Westboro, who drove immediately to the scene. “The wreckage was strewn through the heart of the town”, George Clifford said on his return to Ottawa. “The rear car was utterly demolished and the second one smashed almost almost as bad”. The roof of one of the cars fell, across CP.R. telegraph lines and it was believed communications were disrupted.
“I looked around for my brother and his sweetheart and found them in the hospital car. It wasn’t too hard to get into the car. Everyone was pitching in to help and I grabbed the end of a stretcher and assisted in taking an injured person into the car near the station platform. When I got into the J car I looked around for Jimmy and found both him and Marion. He seemed to be taking it alright in spite of his broken legs. They had placed a tag on him and given him something to ease the pain. Marion had an injured shoulder, I believe it was broken.”
The train crews and other workers had assisted in swinging the backs of the seats around to fill the gaps between the seats and it made a fairly comfortable surface for the injured. There were about 15 in this particular car and the scene of the train crash was one of horror and confusion.
December 28, 1942
Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun andScreamin’ Mamas (USA)