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Bernard J Holden MBE, 1908-2012

Bernard celebrating his centenary - Andrew Strongitharm - 16 March 2008
Bernard Holden MBE, President of the Bluebell Railway, passed away on Thursday, 4th October 2012 peacefully, in the nursing home where he had been living for some time. A full obituary appeared in, amongst many other places, the Telegraph.

The funeral was held at 12.30p.m. on Tuesday, 16th October at St Margaret's Church, Ditchling, followed by a private family burial. Amongst the best coverage of the funeral was that in the Mid Sussex Times.

As many of you will know, Bernard gave significant wartime service in his professional capacity, in India and during the campaign in Burma. The Royal Engineers Association and the British Legion honoured him at the church.

This was preceded by one last journey on the Bluebell Railway from Sheffield Park to Kingscote. This train, of which the LBSCR first-class carriage and the LSWR brake in which Bernard travelled were reserved for family only, and was top and tailed by two Brighton locomotives, B473 "Birch Grove" and 55 "Stepney".

Andrew Strongitharm's photo shows Bernard celebrating his centenary with a ride on the line, in March 2008.

Holden family stationmasters - Southern Railway Magazine - October 1932 Bernard Holden, born on 15 March 1908 in the station house at Barcombe where his father was stationmaster, came from what was very much a "railway family". His great-grandfather joined the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway in 1840. The family moved to Steyning station when his father was appointed Station Master there when Bernard was four.

Bernard himself joined the Southern Railway in 1925. During the Second World War, amongst other things he controlled the trains at Redhill during Operation Dynamo, where locomotives were changed on every train during the evacuation from Dunkirk.

Joining the Royal Engineers in June 1941, he spent his time in India on Railway operations, eventually posted to the 159 Indian Railway Operating Company and played a key role in supporting the battle which prevented the Japanese from entering India. It was at this time he met Vera Lynn, and began a friendship which lasted the rest of his life. As part of 8 Indian Engineers Railway Group he helped prepare for the liberation of Malaya, finishing his military service as a captain a few weeks after VJ day.

He then returned to his civilian railway career at Redhill, and on retiring in 1972 became "Superintendant of the Line" at the Bluebell Railway (having chaired the inaugural meeting of the Society on his birthday in 1959).

This cutting, showing Bernard with earlier generations of Holden family stationmasters, is from the Southern Railway Magazine of October 1932.


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