Duke of Gloucester unveils memorial

PUBLISHED: 13:58 05 June 2007 | UPDATED: 12:32 04 May 2010

The Duke leaving  St Andrew's Church

The Duke leaving St Andrew's Church

THE Duke of Gloucester unveiled a permanent memorial to the four men involved in the Soham rail disaster during a special visit to the town on Saturday. More than 1,000 people turned out for the unveiling ceremony in Red Lion Square. The event was part of

The memorial which was unveiled by the Duke

THE Duke of Gloucester unveiled a permanent memorial to the four men involved in the Soham rail disaster during a special visit to the town on Saturday.

More than 1,000 people turned out for the unveiling ceremony in Red Lion Square.

The event was part of a day of celebrations to honour Benjamin Gimbert, James Nightall, Frank Bridges and Herbert Clark who helped avert disaster on June 2, 1944 when a train full of burning explosives threatened the town.

The train exploded, wrecking the town's station and claiming the lives of James Nightall and Frank Bridges, but the bravery of the four men saved thousands of residents.

The Duke of Gloucester and his wife Brigette Van Deurs at Red Lion Square on Saturday.

On Saturday, the Duke unveiled a stone memorial to the men and a brass plaque showing a picture of the train and details of their actions.

The event was organised by Donna Martin, chairman of Soham Museum, and guests of honour included members of the families of the men who died and South East Cambridgeshire MP Jim Paice.

Before the official unveiling ceremony, the Duke attended the men's graves, including that of Frank Bridges, which had been completely replaced by museum project organisers after it fell into disrepair.

During a private ceremony at the graveside, which was attended by Mr Bridges' son Gordon and his family, the Duke laid a wreath and a short dedication was given by the Rev Tim Alban Jones from Soham's St Andrew's Church.

The official ceremony included a parade laid by the Bury St Edmunds Pipe Band and a guard of honour from the American air force base at Mildenhall. Royal British Legion members from Soham, March and Littleport also took part.

After a laying of wreaths, the last post was played by Richard McCormick from Soham Town Band who received personal praise from the Duke.

Soham Museum organised a display in the Pavilion telling the story of the train disaster and Ben Gimbert's medals, now held in March Museum, were put on show.

After a service in St Andrew's Church, a 1940's style street party was held on the Recreation Ground where 400 teas were served free to residents who were given the chance to take part in old fashioned table games.

Members of the Soham Town Classic Vehicle Club displayed 1940's vehicles including a number of military trucks and there were a range of stalls.

Mrs Martin said: "It was a fabulous day with real community spirit. It was a huge show of strength from the people of Soham.

"The Duke thoroughly enjoyed the day and left with some reluctance. He talked to everybody and showed a good deal of interest.

"I received a number of cards saying this will go down in history."

Photos: Geoff Griggs, Mark Fairhurst and Soham Community History Museum.

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