During the periods of the first world war, and the second, a huge number of employees from the railways volunteered for service. Prior to 1948 the railways were in the ownership of four main regional lines. There were other smaller companies. They employed a huge number of people in a period in which manual handing was the big part of the railway business with freight. The wars also created a huge demand for specialist handling of military equipment and servicemen.
The Great Western Railway memorial on platform 1 of Paddington Station commemorates the deaths of 3312 men and women of the Great Western Railway who gave their lives for their country. It is not surprising that the railway continues to wish to join in the remembrance of modern-day Britain. When covid came along the restrictions triggered an idea of a poppy train carrying the symbolism of remembrance along railway lines that took many to their death.
The 06:40 starting at Plymouth, was accorded the honour of picking up the wreaths at the stations along the line; including: Ivybridge, Newton Abbot, Teignmouth, Dawlish, Exeter St David’s, Tiverton
Parkway,Taunton, Castle Cary, Frome, Westbury, Pewsey and Newbury. Another train from deep Penzance collected wreaths from the Cornish stations before overtaking the 06:40 at Exeter. At each station, the local Mayor and veteran supporters paraded with their wreaths, which were collected from the platform, by a representative of GWR supported by five veterans of the South Atlantic, including two trustees of SAMA82. It had to be a smart and speedy transfer to ensure the timely arrival at Paddington. Between stations veterans toured the train giving out remembrance information. The wreaths made a sombre but beautiful decoration for the leading first class coach of the train. Arrival required a speedy transfer, to enable the wreaths to be laid out, and for the service to begin, ready for the silence at 11:00 indicated by the famous GWR clock above the platform.