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Soham Railway Disaster - 2nd June 1944

Soham Railway Station 1939

Soham Railway Station

Soham Railway Station was officially opened on 1st September 1879 when the Ely to Newmarket Railway line was built and was, for many years, a focal point of town life. There was a busy bookstall, two waiting rooms, one for the ladies and one for the gentlemen, with large open fires on cold days. There was a busy goods yard and 'The Crown Hotel' landau carriage met arrivals to the town. The Rail Station at Soham and surrounding area was destroyed on 2nd June 1944 after a consignment of bombs travelling through the Town caught fire and blew up the Station and nearly Soham itself if it hadn’t been for four very courageous men Benjamin Gimbert - G.C., James Nightall - G.C., Frank Bridges and Herbert Clarke. The Station was never rebuilt but a platform was and services ran to Cambridge again. Soham Platform was finally closed down in 1965 instigated by Dr. Beeching. Shortly thereafter the Warren Hill Junction / Snailwell Junction Chord was removed severing the direct connection from Soham to Cambridge via Newmarket.

Introduction

The title words were spoken by the Reverend Percy Fletcher Boughey in St. Andrew's Church on Sunday 4th June 1944 in preface to his tribute to the four brave railwaymen who, two days earlier, had saved the town of Soham from virtual destruction. Two had died, one lay critically injured and the fourth damaged in hospital after an otherwise successful and totally selfless attempt to save hundreds of lives. This was not the address planned by the vicar for his 'Salute The Soldier Week' service but another hastily prepared for a congregation waiting to give thanks for their deliverance. The wounded town was still in shock but its foundations were largely intact and the people were there to mourn the dead heroes and celebrate their own survival.

Ben Gimbert James Nightall Frank Bridges Herbert Clarke
Benjamin Gimbert G.C.
(1903 - 1976)
Train Driver
James Nightall G.C.
(1922 -1944)
Engine Fireman
Frank Bridges
(1896-1944)
Signalman
Herbert Clarke
(1885 -1976)
Guard

The Saving Of Soham

The summer had been warm and dry in Britain and its people after, nearly five years of war, were waiting for D-Day - the beginning of the end. All knew the landings in Europe were imminent and that the first list of casualties would follow all too soon. It was no time for crises on the home front to claim the front pages - and they seldom did with so much coming from the theatres of war, good or bad. The threats from the air had extended to doodlebugs, chugging over like motorcycles with flaming tails until they cut out to blast holes anywhere, and V-2 rockets diving on London, leaving huge craters and many casualties. The crisis that occurred in the small hours of Friday 2nd June 1944 in 'a market town in Cambridgeshire' could claim but passing interest in the national press at this time. Not so for the people of Soham, that market town disguised at a time of geographical censorship, although they were soon to be reassured that but for acts of courage and self-sacrifice outstanding even in wartime their troubles would have been far worse.

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