Tribute to man who saved town

PUBLISHED: 10:30 15 November 2007 | UPDATED: 13:04 04 May 2010

A WARTIME hero who saved Soham from possible disaster has been commemorated in his home village on Remembrance weekend. Members of the various branches of the British Legion joined Network Rail representatives to unveil a plaque dedicated to railway fire

A WARTIME hero who saved Soham from possible disaster has been commemorated in his home village on Remembrance weekend.

Members of the various branches of the British Legion joined Network Rail representatives to unveil a plaque dedicated to railway fireman James Nightall.

Mr Nightall, was just 22, when he uncoupled a burning wagon from a train carrying 52 wagons of ammunition through Soham station in June 1944.

The wagon exploded at Soham Railway Station, killing Mr Nightall outright but his actions were said to have prevented the deaths of countless others. He and train driver Benjamin Gimbert were found dead on the platform and were both posthumously awarded the George Cross.

Donna Martin, chairman of the Soham Community History Museum project, who was represented at the unveiling ceremony on Saturday morning, said: "Without James Nightall, Soham just wouldn't exist. It was no small thing, what he did."

Ron Bidwell, secretary of Littleport British Legion branch, agreed.

"It's affected so many people who wouldn't be here today if it weren't for Nightall. My cousin, who lived in Soham at the time, was due to get married a fortnight later and her wedding dress was hanging up in her room. A piece of shrapnel came through the window and missed her dress by centimetres."

Network Rail put up the money for the plaque after Martin Goodearl, who works for the company, and is also a member of the Littleport British Legion, suggested to his boss that a plaque be erected to remember Mr Nightall.

Susan Constable and Janice Cross, who are second cousins of Mr Nighthall, both attended the ceremony.

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