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Newly weds buried a week after wedding day

By This is Sussex  |  Posted: October 07, 2010

  • TRAGEDY: The couple's grave

  • WEDDING BELLS: St Giles' Church, Horsted Keynes where Ronald and Winifred Knapp were married

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TRAGEDY struck a wartime wedding party in Horsted Keynes 67 years ago when the young lovers, married for just four hours, were killed on the railway line.

In an area already rocked by bombing, news of the catastrophe on what is now part of the Bluebell Railway was particularly hard to bear.

The horrific incident was widely reported in local newspapers at the time.

On July 31, 1943 Gunner Ronald Knapp, 22, of the Royal Artillery married WAAF Winifred Standing, 21, at St Giles' Church, Horsted Keynes.

Due to wartime shortages, the reception was held at the bride's home, Nobles Farm on the parish boundary and near the railway.

Ronald's parents had to leave early to catch a bus to Haywards Heath, which stopped outside what is now Hollywell waterworks.

The newlyweds decided to walk them to the bus stop – a decision which led to their deaths.

In heavy rain and the blackout, Ronald and Winifred walked back to Nobles Farm along the railway track instead of by path. As they did so a train travelling at 20mph was on its way from Lewes to East Grinstead.

The guard later said he had seen something dark lying in the track. When the train reached Horsted Keynes station, an old raincoat covered in blood was found at the back, as the engine was travelling in reverse.

The lifeless bodies of the newlyweds were found lying between the rails.

Another raincoat was found further away.

The line ganger who found the bodies told the inquest the couple must have been walking with their backs to the train.

"There was a very heavy squall at the time and the couple would probably have not heard a thing," he said.

At the inquest, the coroner said Ronald and Winifred were trespassing on the railway track and no blame could be attached to any railway worker.

Little more than a week after they were married, the couple's funeral was held at St Giles' where they are buried together. Their grave is marked by a War Graves Commission headstone.

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