Pattle Family

The Rail Accident

My days as a happy carefree teenager loving my dancing and acting with the St Johns Glee Party and the Revellers in the productions they put on to entertain the folk of Laindon, were soon to come to an end. On one dark foggy night 30th January 1958, I left my job in Fenchurch Street for the usual train journey home. It was very foggy, the thick heavy yellow smog hung in the air. I pulled my scarf over my nose and mouth to stop me from breathing in the smoggy air, as I made my way to the station. On arriving I found the friends I usually travelled home with waiting on the platform. We always got the 6:35 train home, I noticed that because of the fog the 6:20 had not left the station, but was about to leave. On a sudden impulse, I have long since regretted, I shouted to my mates, “Catching the early train, bye”, as I ran and jumped in the last carriage, Ladies Only.

The journey home was so slow we just crawled along. All the seats were taken so I had to stand until we got to Barking when I got a seat. I remember two ladies sitting opposite me one embroidering a beautiful table cloth as they shared a bar of chocolate, I felt very hungry and wished we would soon be in Laindon. Suddenly I became aware of a rumbling noise which quickly got louder and louder yet at the same moment there was an explosion and darkness, I was being squeezed tighter and tighter, crushed until I didn’t think I could take anymore.  I think I must have passed out for a while because it seemed to me that all of a sudden I became aware of voices calling and people crying, moaning, burning steam and a strong sulphur smell was all around me. In the pitch darkness I couldn’t see a thing, I tried to move and only my right arm moved a little. My knees were under my chin I felt I was crushed under something very heavy, a frightning panic feeling hit me in the stomach took me over and I too was crying. I will not go on with the graphic details of what it was like for me and others trapped for hours in the nightmare of that night. They are just so horrible and maybe not for these pages. The relief I felt when I saw a small light through a gap at the side of me was so welcome.  I heard a voice call my name and relised it was my friends I had left at Fenchurch Station, they were looking for me. They had been on the 6:35 which had run into us but thankfully they were unhurt. One of the boys Greg Smith stayed with me all the time it took for the firemen to get me free, then one fireman carried me in his arms with my badly broken back, up the step embankment at the side of the track and layed me on the ground.

Ambulance men arrived and I was painfully transfered in and ambulance for the slow journey to Oldchurch Hospital Romford. I was one month off my seventeeth birthday and the injuries I suffered have been with me all my life. In someways I was the lucky one there were meny others that didn’t make it.

See more of Jean’s memories of the accident

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  • Hi my mother and father were in this accident, my father got my mother who was injured out of the carriage and ten months later they was married. Mr Charles Page and Joan Goody both now not with us.

    By Jayne Pestell (23/04/2023)
  • Hi Jean.

    My dad Fred Porter was also in the crash and spent at least 50 minutes before they got hm out. He received a broken pelvis and damaged ribs. The doctors said it would be a year before he could go back to work. He was working within six months. I was doing a paper round at the time and remember coming out of the bedroom complaining why I had not been woken up for my round…  Ken

    By Ken Porter (13/04/2015)
  • Hi Jean

    I am currently researching Basildon’s Famous and Greg Smith is one of them…can you remember anything about him from his early days in Laindon and at Laindon High Road School? 

    Cheers.  Ken

    By Ken Porter (13/04/2015)
  • Hello Michael, Sorry I have not replied to your comments to my page. I have not visited this site for a while. Thank you for your comment.

    It is very possible the lady I remember on that fateful night was your mother Madge I will always remember her and thank you for giving me her name. I think that the way you and your sisters were treated by BR was an insult and I am so sorry to hear this. It must have been a dreadful time for you all, yet I am not surprised. 

    I was only sixteen when this accident happened, my spine was very badly broken and I have lived a life of disability and pain all these years, but received very little in compensation to see me though my life, compared with how I would be assessed in todays world. My best wishes to you and your family.

    By Jean Pattle (15/01/2013)
  • Jean, I have just read your story. My mother, Madge, was in the Ladies Only compartment that night, but didn’t make it. She may be the other lady eating chocolate. We lived in Basildon at the time, but I was in the merchant navy. Luckily I was in port in the south of France and was flown home. My two younger sisters were waiting all night for news of Mum. The official inquest verdict was ‘Accidental Death’, with no blame on the driver or British Rail. This meant no compensation. BR made an ex gratia payment of 400 pounds total to my sisters. That was the price of a loving mother! Michael Fruin. now living in Tasmania

    By Michael Fruin (19/09/2012)
  • Jean, I was reading this article again and thought I would let you know that my dad was on your train (one of the plucky dockers mentioned by Wendy who got on at Barking) but because it was crowded, got in at the front of the train and was unhurt. 

    By Jim Quinton (24/01/2012)
  • On the night of this crash, I was in Laindon Memorial Hall actually watching a Revellers production, when a lady dashed in to tell everybody of the crash. We later learnt that our next door neighbour had been on one of the trains, yet safe. I am in touch with Fred Penson Jnr who was a Reveller.

    By Brian Baylis (01/08/2011)
  • Thank you Wendy for your comment, you were very lucky in your choice of seat that night. There was a Brenda Buckingham also injured badly in the accident she was in hospital with me for months after. She was the daughter of a Farmer in Wash Road Laindon. We became very good friends as we recoved from our injuries.

    By Jean Pattle (31/05/2011)
  • Yes Jean, I remember that night well. I too was on the 6.20 from Fenchurch Street and usually travelled in the Ladies Only carriage, along with some friends. That evening, Anne (Buckingham I think), wanted to meet her boyfriend at Barking, so we got into a carriage in the middle of the train. How I’ve thanked my lucky stars ever since, as apart from a bump on the head, I wad not injured. The journey back to Laindon was a bit of an adventure, aided by some plucky dockers who joined the train at Barking. A vivid memory of that night was arriving back at Laindon, probably getting on for midnight, and seeing relatives standing on the staircase leading down to the platform, anxiously watching for their families. Sadly, as you say, not all of them made it home. I do remember you and your performances at the Memorial Hall.

    By Wendy Groves (née Archibald) (30/05/2011)

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