Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Day A Plot To Kill The Queen Derailed

[Here we see the Queen of Australia on April 1st, 1970, chatting with jockeys Ron Quinton and Hilton Cope before the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick Racecourse near Sydney, which Her Majesty attended during that year's Royal Tour; the winner that day was Panvale.]

Recently, a story came to light that while on a Royal Tour of Australia in April 1970 an attempted assassination of Her Majesty The Queen was foiled by an eagle-eyed engineer named Albert Rowley and a cautious train driver by the name of Robert Walkington - both heroes...

According to Clifford McHardy - the retired policeman who decided to break the news 38 years after swearing Bele Lleyton, then the editor of The Lithgow Mercury, to secrecy - it seems that while traveling via rail on the Main Western line from Sydney to Orange through the Blue Mountains a log large enough to derail the royal train was placed on the tracks, probably deliberately. The deed would have had to be done in the space of an hour between the time an earlier train had swept the track for obstacles and the royal train approached; that all this had happened in the dead of night and in an out of the way location makes it all the more suspicious. Rather than causing the train to derail and plunge down an embankment, the log became jammed under its wheels instead, likely because the train wasn't traveling at top speed. The train then came to a slow stop outside the town of Bowenfels, having dragged the log about 200 yards.

If it was, in fact, an assassination attempt, no culprit was ever found; then again, the subsequent investigation was conducted with such discretion that they might as well have not bothered. Still, McHardy decided to speak to the press now in the hopes that some further details might come to light; at the time he had the story covered up to avoid potentially embarassing Australia, so that not even the Queen or the Duke of Edinburgh knew about it themselves until recently, an action he has called 'one of the big regrets of [his] police service'.
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