|Born||6 February 1903|
Ely, Cambridgeshire, England
|Died||6 May 1976 (aged 73)|
March, Cambridgeshire, England
|Resting place||Eastwood Road Cemetery, March, Cambridgeshire|
|Occupation||Driver with the London & North Eastern Railway|
|Known for||Hero of Soham rail disaster|
Benjamin Gimbert GC (6 February 1903 – 6 May 1976), an engine driver with the LNER was awarded the George Cross, 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.
The citation for the awards read:
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.
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". The nameplate "Benjamin Gimbert GC" was transferred to 47 574 in July 1987 at Stratford depot. It remained on this locomotive for 10 years. (Encyclopedia of Modern Traction Names - Colin J Marsden). On 2 June 2004 new "Benjamin Gimbert GC" nameplates were applied to Class 66 077 at Whitemoor yard (March). Also the Norfolk Green bus company have named Optare Solo 617 (MX55WCV) after Gimbert.
Gimbert's medals are displayed in March Museum alongside some shrapnel removed from his body.