Benjamin Gimbert
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Benjamin Gimbert

Benjamin Gimbert
Benjamin Gimbert.jpg
Born(1903-02-06)6 February 1903
Died6 May 1976(1976-05-06) (aged 73)
Resting placeEastwood Road Cemetery, March, Cambridgeshire[1]
OccupationDriver with the London & North Eastern Railway
Known forHero of Soham rail disaster

Benjamin Gimbert GC (6 February 1903 – 6 May 1976), an engine driver with the LNER was awarded the George Cross and the Order of Industrial Heroism, as was his fireman James Nightall, whose award was posthumous, for saving an ammunition train from a fire on 2 June 1944 during the Soham rail disaster.

Early life

Gimbert was born on 6 February 1903 in Ely, Cambridgeshire, the son of farm labourer George William Gimbert and his wife Florence. He married in 1926 and by 1939 was living in March, Cambridgeshire.

George Cross

Memorial tablet in St Andrews Church, Soham to James Nightall and Benjamin Gimbert

The citation for the awards read:[2]

As an ammunition train was pulling into a station in Cambridgeshire, the driver, Gimbert, discovered that the wagon next to the engine was on fire. He immediately drew Nightall's attention to the fire and brought the train to a standstill. By the time the train had stopped the whole of the truck was enveloped in flames and, realising the danger, the driver instructed the fireman to try to uncouple the truck immediately behind the blazing vehicle. Without the slightest hesitation Nightall, although he knew that the truck contained explosives, uncoupled the vehicle and rejoined his driver on the footplate.

The blazing van was close to the station buildings and was obviously liable to endanger life in the village. The driver and fireman realised that it was essential to separate the truck from the remainder of the train and run it into the open. Driver Gimbert set the engine in motion and as he approached a signal box he warned the signalman to stop any trains which were likely to be involved and indicated what he intended to do. Almost immediately the vehicle blew up. Nightall was killed and Gimbert was very severely injured.

Gimbert and Nightall were fully aware of the contents of the wagon which was on fire and displayed outstanding courage and resource in endeavouring to isolate it. When they discovered that the wagon was on fire they could easily have left the train and sought shelter, but realising that if they did not remove the burning vehicle the whole of the train, which consisted of 51 wagons of explosives, would have blown up, they risked their lives in order to minimise the effect of the fire. There is no doubt that if the whole train had been involved, as it would have been but for the gallant action of the men concerned, there would have been serious loss of life and property.

Other awards

Gimbert was also awarded the Order of Industrial Heroism,[3] a private civil award given by the Daily Herald newspaper, and the LNER's Silver Medal for Courage and Resource.[3] In 1953 he received the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal.


"Benjamin Gimbert GC" (66 077)

Gimbert died on 6 May 1976 and was buried in Eastwood Cemetery in March. In 1984, his medals were bought by March Town Council and are on permanent loan to March Museum alongside some shrapnel removed from his body.[4]

On 28 September 1981 two Class 47 locomotives were named in honour of the two railwaymen: No. 47577 was named "Benjamin Gimbert, GC" and No. 47579 "James Nightall, GC".[5] The nameplate "Benjamin Gimbert GC" was transferred to 47 574 in July 1987 at Stratford depot. It remained on this locomotive for 10 years.[6] On 2 June 2004 new "Benjamin Gimbert GC" nameplates were applied to Class 66 077 at Whitemoor yard (March).[7] Also the Norfolk Green bus company have named Optare Solo 617 (MX55WCV) after Gimbert.


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 March 2017. Retrieved 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "No. 36623". The London Gazette (Supplement). 25 July 1944. p. 3457.
  3. ^ a b "BBC - A History of the World - Object : George Cross awarded to Ben Gimbert".
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 October 2011. Retrieved 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ GC Awards to Railwaymen Archived 2013-06-04 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Encyclopedia of Modern Traction Names - Colin J Marsden
  7. ^ Railway Magazine: 68. August 2004. Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links

See also

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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