On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 19,240 British soldiers were killed. Ernie Rudd, a GWR station clerk from Southall in West London, was one of those men. Based on detailed research into Ernie’s life, my play Ernie Rudd: Soldier of Southall was performed by a cast of local people in the church he attended – and where his name is listed on the war memorial – on Remembrance Sunday in 2014.
Four years later, I met members of Ernie’s family, descended from his brother. They told me about the GWR’s newly-commissioned electric train, launched the previous day, which bears all the names of their employees who died in the First World War. Remarkably, Ernie’s photograph was among those chosen to be featured on the carriages.
After a special day of swapping memories and research, Ernie’s great-niece kindly took me to the station so I could catch a train home. When I got to the platform, I noticed a train across the tracks. A train with a long list of names on it. A train with photographs on the carriages. It was Ernie’s train.