GALLERY: Family of Soham Explosion Second World War March hero Ben Gimbert attend Nightall nameplate exchange at museum

14:37 16 July 2014

Name plate exchange at March Museum. Exchange of Ben Gimbert nameplate for James Nighthall nameplate. Left: Paul Hodgson, Joyce Dedman, and Jenny Amps.

Name plate exchange at March Museum. Exchange of Ben Gimbert nameplate for James Nighthall nameplate. Left: Paul Hodgson, Joyce Dedman, and Jenny Amps.

Archant

The family of March Second World War hero Benjamin Gimbert were present for a symbolic exchange of nameplates at March and District Museum today.

March train driver Benjamin Gimbert, alongside Soham firemen James Nightall, prevented the Soham Explosion, which took place on June 2, 1944, from becoming an even greater disaster.

Gimbert survived, although seriously injured, and both he and Nightall were awarded the George Cross for their actions. He died aged 73 in 1976.

In 1981, in tribute to the pair, British Railways named locomotives Benjamin Gimbert GC and James Nightall GC. The trains, which have since been decommissioned, ran from Liverpool Street to Cambridge and Norwich.

March and District Museum were donated the Benjamin Gimbert GC nameplates in 1998, but the James Nightall nameplates went elsewhere.

However, locomotive enthusiast David Hodgson, of Billericay, got in touch with the museum and, after several years of trying, an exchange finally took place - his James Nightall nameplate for the museum’s Benjamin Gimbert nameplate.

Gimbert’s daughter Joyce Dedman, 87, of March, her husband Roland and Gimbert’s granddaughter Jenny Amps attended the ceremony.

Mrs Dedman said: “It’s very nice to be asked to be here. I can remember being told what happened and visiting my father in Newmarket Military Hospital. He looked terrible. You would never have thought anyone would have got out alive.

“He didn’t talk a lot about what happened. He was a very modest man. He said it was his duty to do what he did.”

A few days before D-Day, a train consisting of 50 wagons of high explosives and detonators was destined for a US Air Force base in Essex.

Just before they reached Soham, Gimbert noticed that the first wagon behind the engine was on fire.

After bringing the train to a halt Nightall climbed down from the engine and unhooked that wagon from the remainder of the train.

They then slowly pulled the blazing wagon away from the train in an attempt to get through Soham rail station into open countryside.

As they passed through the station, the wagon exploded, killing Nightall and Soham station signalman, Frank Bridges.

The museum is holding a Hidden Stories exhibition, which runs until July 27, to mark the centenary of the First World War, with contributions from Westwood and Thomas Eaton School pupils.

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