Collection of items relating to Soham rail disaster finds a new home in town’s museum

08:47 13 March 2014

The wreckage from the explosion

The wreckage from the explosion

Archant

A “nationally important” collection of items and pictures which keep alive the story of the tragedy and heroism of the Soham rail disaster have taken up a place in the town’s museum.

British and American servicemen helped repair the damageBritish and American servicemen helped repair the damage

A presentation of pictures and items relating to the disaster, of June 1944, took place yesterday as the collection was handed over to Soham Museum from Soham Village College.

The collection includes the George Cross awarded to fireman James Nightall and a series of pictures and paintings relating to the incident, in which Soham came within moments of being obliterated by a burning train packed with bombs and ammunition.

On June 2, 1944, at 2am, as Britain prepared for the D-Day landings, an ammunition train caught fire in Soham Station.

The resulting explosion ripped through the town of Soham, but if it hadn’t been for the bravery of the men involved, the town would have been reduced to rubble and hundreds of residents could have been killed.

In the event, two people died; signalman, Frank Bridges, and fireman, James Nightall. Driver, Ben Gimbert and Nightall were both awarded the George Cross for the bravery they showed in uncoupling a burning wagon of bombs from the ammunition train in order to prevent an a catastrophic event.

And Frank Bridges, along with guard Herbert Clarke were been recognised locally. All four men who played a part in the terrible events are remembered on a memorial which stands at the centre of Soham adjacent to the war memorial; in Red Lion Square.

Donna Martin, chairman of Soham Museum, said: “This year marks the 70th anniversary of the saving of Soham meaning the donation of this nationally important collection of artefacts is all the more significant.

“The Railway Heritage Trust is fully supportive of the transfer of these important items into a public collection.”

The museum is to hold a special commemoration event on June 3, at 7pm, in The Brook where the public unveiling of the collection will take place.

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