Sombre anniversary of River Trent disaster which killed seven Falkirk troops

Pedestrians stop in silent tribute as the coffins of two part-time paratroopers killed in the River Trent disaster are carried through Falkirk High Street in October 1975
Pedestrians stop in silent tribute as the coffins of two part-time paratroopers killed in the River Trent disaster are carried through Falkirk High Street in October 1975
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A tragedy that claimed the lives of 10 volunteer soldiers including seven from Falkirk district will be remembered at a poignant 40th anniversary service next month.

The men were all members of the 300 Troop 131 Independent Parachute Squadron of the Royal Engineers Territorial Army who were on an 80 mile night navigation exercise on the River Trent in Nottinghamshire on September 28, 1975 that ended in disaster.

We hope as many relatives as possible of those who died can attend

Former councillor and paratrooper Danny Mailer

During a force six gale and with the river in full flood the assault boat they were in was swept over a weir, known locally as the ‘Devils Cauldrin’ drowning all but one of the 11 reservists on board.

It was the largest peace time tragedy in the squadron’s history and left the families of Sappers Stuart Evenden (22), his brother Peter (19), Terry Smith and Raymond Buchanan, both 20 and all from Falkirk, Grangemouth pals Ian Mercer (17) and James Black (18) and Norman Bennet (29) from Bo’ness devastated.

Three colleagues from Clackmannanshire, Alexander O’Brien (18), Joseph Walker (21) and Ronald Temprell (26) also lost their lives.

Only Lance Corporal Patrick Harkin (31), from Denny, who was in charge of the boat that fateful night, survived. He clung onto the swamped craft for over an hour before being rescued.

After the military funerals across the central belt, a memorial service was held at the site of the accident near Newark and a stone of Scottish granite bearing all their names laid in a small commemorative garden close to the Cromwell Weir.

Another memorial stone was also placed next to Grangemouth Cenotaph where relatives and friends of the men have been invited to gather at 11 am on Sunday, September 27 to remember what happened four decades ago and pay tribute to the dead.

Provost Pat Reid will represent Falkirk Council and be joined by TA veteran and former Falkirk Councillor Danny Mailer who completed his National Service with 3Para in 1952 and later served with 300 Troop in Grangemouth between 1964 and 1968.

Danny (84) said: “Terry Smith’s family were our neighbours all these years ago and I knew the other lads very well including Stuart and Peter Evenden whose brother Edwin has already said will be there. The associations representing the para engineers will be represented too but we would like as many family and friends as possible to attend as well.”

Danny can be contacted on (01324) 635683 or at 3paradan@gmail.com