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The memorial plaque to Frederick Alfred Croft.

THE MEMORIAL PLAQUE TO Frederick Alfred Croft

Although his memorial plaque remembers him as "Frederick Alfred Croft", it is, in fact another case of a wrong surname, as the person who performed the act of heroism memorialised here was actaully Frederick Alfred Craft (1848 - 1878).

His plaque is inscribed thus, "Frederick Alfred Croft, Inspector, Aged 31, Saved A Lunatic Woman From Suicide At Woolwich Arsenal Station, But Was Himself Run Over By The Train, Jan 11 1878."

This, like the John Cranmer Cambridge plaque, is one of the memorials that raises more than a few modern eyebrows, on account of its reference to a "Lunatic Woman".

Yet, this is exactly how the papers reported the tragedy, and is exactly how the Jury at the inquest into his death saw it as well.

The Somerset Gazette gave the particulars of the te events as they had occurred that night in its edition of the 19th of January 1878:-


"Frederick Craft, night inspector at the Woolwich Arsenal Railway Station, lost his life on Friday night in the act of saving the life of a fellow-creature.

An insane woman, named Newman was being conveyed to the county asylum at Maidstone, in charge of Mr. Moore, relieving-officer; Miss Wilkinson. infirmary matron, and another assistant, from whom she broke away as the train approached, and threw, herself upon the rails.

Inspector Craft, who was an active young man, leaped after her and thrust her clear of the rails, but was unable himself to escape, and the train paased over him, severing both legs and one arm.

He was carried to the infirmary, where he died after a few hours' suffering.

He has left a widow and two young children."


According to the majority of newspapers Craft had been fatally injured when he had jumped onto the rail to push the woman clear of the train.

However, in its edition of the 20th January 1878 Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper had a slightly different version of what had occurred:-

"A serious accident occurred on Friday night at Woolwich Arsenal station.

An insane woman was on the platform, in charge of a relieving officer, who was taking her to the County Lunatic Asylum, near Maidstone.

Seeing the train coming, she became violent and attempted to escape.

She was seized by a railway inspector named Frederick Craft, and in the struggle she knocked him on to the line just as the train came up.

The engine and carriages passed over both legs, and be was conveyed in a dying state to the Woolwich Union Infirmary."


The inquest into his death was held at the Lord Derby Pub in Woolwich on the 15th of January 1878.

The Illustrated London News gave a brief summary of the proceedings and the verdict in its edition of the 19th of January 1878:-

"Mr. Carttar held an inquest at Plumstead on Tuesday relative to the death of Frederick Alfred Craft, aged thirty-one, the night inspector of the Woolwich Arsenal station, who was killed in saving the life of an insane woman who had thrown herself in front of a train.

A verdict was returned of "Killed in attempting to save the life of a lunatic."

The Rev. G. Webb, foreman of the jury, expressed a hope that the public would recognise the gallantry of the deceased by providing for his children, and a subscription was made on behalf of a fund which the station-master is raising."


Interestingly, a few weeks after the death of Inspector Frederick Alfred Craft, an article appeared that shed a little light on the personal circumstances of the woman he had died trying to save.

In its edition of Sunday 3rd February 1878 Reynold's Weekly Newspaper published the following article:-


About a fortnight ago, a woman named Newman, who was being conveyed by a Woolwich relieving officer to the County Lunatic Asylum, caused the death of a railway inspector at Woolwioh Arsenal Station.

The Woolwich board of guardians have since taken possession of her property, when her rooms were found to be handsomely furnished, and to cintain, amongst other valuable articles, some very costly jewellery.jewellery.

In addition to some ready money, a deed representing £900 invested in Three per Cent. Consols was also found.

At the Woolwich board of guardians on Friday it was directed that the jewellery and money should be sent to the strong-room of the VVoolwich branch of the London and County Bank, the of the woman's maintenance to be defrayed out of the proceeds from time to time."


No mention was made of any of the money going to support the widow and the children of Frederick Alfred Craft, who had been laid to rest in the churchyard of St Thomas's Church, Woodland Terrace on 19th January 1878.