Just before the 1913 Epsom Derby Emily Davison went to the WSPU headquarters and asked for a couple of large Votes for Women flags. And on the day of the race Emily wore an incongrously heavy coat on what was a scorcher of a June day when most middle class women there were in their silks and other finery. Did she wear the heavy coat so she could clip the big flags into its inside lining unseen? (These flags were found on her after her tragic collison with the King’s Horse Anmer, clipped to the inside of her coat). Much is often said of her buying a return rail ticket to Epsom Downs station. The fact that it was a return is something of a red herring in that there was a special Derby Day excursion fare which meant that a return was cheaper than a single so rail ticket booth clerks gave everyone returns as a matter of course. And whatever Emily had planned for The Derby, she certainly wan’t going to be travelling home by train. Whether she planned to wave her big flags to disrupt the race in general or always had it in mind to try to approach the kings horse, whether succesful or not, at best she was going to spend the night in an Epsom policc station charged with disturbance of the peace. But what MAY be significant is that Emily got the train to Epsom Downs, which is a very long walk from Tattenham Corner, rather than get a train to Tattenham Corner’s own station, which was (and still is) right next to the course. Epsom Downs station is much closer to the finishing line and the grandstand, Was the original plan to disrupt the race by walking on to the course close to the finish, in front of the grandstand and waving her large Votes for Women flags? Was Tattenham Corner an after thought? Or was it simply that to get a Tattenham Corner train, Emily would have had to get a tube, tram, bus or taxi to London Bridge? Was it simpler for her to get a train from Victoria to Epsom Downs and walk to Tattenham Corner from there? Or was she concerned that her previous exploits – being the first Suffragette to set fire to pillar boxes; stowing away on several occasions in the House of Commons; injuring herself throwing herself down steps in prison; and most attention-grabbing of all, barricading herself into her prison cell and having a hose pipe turned on her to the point where she couldn’t breath properly – would mean that the police may have been looking for her and other known militants such as the friend she had with her at Epsom, Mary Richardson. So did she travel to Epsom Downs in the belief that mingling in with the huge crowd would be a safer way to arrive undetected? Or not being a racing fan, was she oblivious to the fact that Tattenham Corner was a long way from the grandstand and had its own station?
I believe that the most likely scenrio was that the original plan was to use the big flags to disrupt the race but once ensconced on the rails at Tattenham Corner and seeing the first two races of the day hurtle by her, she was perhaps pleasantly surprised by how close you could stand to the horses and how easy it would be to dart out at the last second and target a specific horse – the king’s horse.