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Town marks 70th anniversary of train explosion

Soham train explosion, June 2nd 1944 Photo: Soham museum

This year the town of Soham near Ely in Cambridgeshire is marking the 70th anniversary of a munitions train explosion which killed two men.

The train's fireman James Nightall was killed in the explosion after uncoupling a burning wagon full of bombs.

James Nightall died trying to pull the wagon clear of the rest of the train Credit: Soham Museum

The wagon caught fire on June 2nd 1944 as the train was on its way to Essex. It's thought a spark from the engine caused the blaze.

At Soham Station, train driver Benjamin Gimbert sent fireman James Nightall to uncouple the wagon and to pull it clear of the rest of the train which was full of bombs.

He succeeded, but was killed in the explosion.

Signalman Frank Bridges was on the platform and died from his injuries the next day

Train driver Benjamin Gimbert suffered injuries, but survived Credit: Soham Museum
Signalman Frank Bridges died from his injuries the next day Credit: Soham Museum
Peggy Gibbon was 16-year-old at the time of the disaster Credit: ITV News Anglia

There was a huge bang an we thought it was a bomb. Everybody in the row came to their bedroom windows thinking it was a bomb nearby. We were ages before we could get any news.

– Peggy Gibbon, eye witness
The train's guard Herbert Clarke survived the blast Credit: Soham Museum
Wreckage of the exploded train Credit: Soham Museum

James Nightall was posthumously awarded the George Cross.

To commemorate the disaster the medal has been donated to the local museum for a display about the events of June 2nd, 1944.

Click above to watch a short clip from Donna Martin, the Chairman of Soham Museum.

Scene of the explosion at Soham, Cambridgeshire Credit: Soham Museum