Pattle Family 2

Rail Accident

At the same time that I was living through this nightmare, my parent were at home becoming increasingly concerned about me being so late. They knew that because of the fog the trains would be running very late, but as time ticked on they began to worry more. Suddenly a newsflash came on the TV stating that there had been a train crash on the Fenchurch Street line and they knew I was on one of the trains involved. We didn’t have a telephone very few people did in those days, so they were at a loss to know just what to do. Dad was about to go to the police or railway station, Mum would keep going to the front gate to listen for me coming up the road, with my high heel tapping on the pavements, asking everyone that passed have you seen Jean. When a knock came on the door. Two policemen stood there, to inform my parent that I had been involved in the accident, that I’d been taken to Oldchurch Hospital, Romford. They had no knowledge of the extent of my injuries and because of my young age, they needed a consent form signed for the hospital, so I could be given an aesthetic. With no idea what was wrong with me and why I needed an operation made my parent fearful that I may have lost a limb or limbs. They were almost out of there minds with worry with no way to find out anything.

My boyfriend Ron, who lived on Canvey Island saw the newsflash and decided to make his way to my home to see that I was OK. He managed to get a bus off the Island to Benfleet Station to find that all the trains had stopped because of the crash. By luck another traveller said he had a car and was going most of the way to Laindon he would give Ron a lift. On arrival he found everyone in a state of confusion. The police had just left and Dad was trying to work out just how to get mum and him to the hospital. My uncle Stan (Quinton) then arrived, he came to see if I had got home as he thought I may be on one of the trains. Ron and Stan thought they may get a bus or a lift to Romford on the A127, so decided to try.  Well as luck had it they managed to stop a car, the driver was a newspaper reporter on his way to the hospital to get the story. When he heard they had someone involved he willingly gave them a lift all the way. It was a dreadful night to be driving in the fog, but they made it.

With the bell ringing I made the ride in the ambulance to the hospital. Another lady had travelled with me, it was one of the ladies with the chocolate. She kept asking about her friend, the ambulance attendant didn’t have any news of her. I couldn’t tell her that her friend had been pulled from the carnage when they were trying to free me, I’d heard the fireman say she was dead. I just couldn’t stop the tears.

As I was freed from the wreckage, the springs from the seat I was crushed in had hit me in the face, by the time the doctors came to see me my face was so swollen that I couldn’t see out of my eyes. I’d had also bitten through my tongue which was very swollen, so I couldn’t get the doctor to understand me when I tried to talk. This meant I had to write best I could lying down my name and address so they knew who I was. My clothes were all cut away from my body to see the extent of my injuries. I had a large piece of British Rail wood 6in by 4in wedged into the calf of my leg, that needed immediate attention, as well as cleaning up other cuts on my legs and feet. I kept trying to tell them that my back hurt, but nobody seemed to listen. I was examined and given an injection for the pain. Then things get very fuzzy, I was wheeled along a corridor to the operating theatre, where nurses and doctors spoke to me, saying as they put a rubber mask over my face you will go to sleep now. I remember gulping in the gas from the mask, just wanting to go to sleep and end this horror I was living through.

It was the next day I was xrayed and the full extent of my injuries  found. My spine was very badly broken, it was thought I would never walk again. I spent months in hospital, then almost a year in a plaster cast from my neck to my knees. The road to recovery was very long. I did learn to walk again, but my life would never be the same. The constant pain and difficulty walking has meant I could never do things as before. With constant hospital visits and operations on my spine life has not been easy for me since that fateful night, but I did survive and others sadly didn’t.

To return to the Dagenham Rail Accident recollections

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  • I worked with Jean at a Greek shipping agency called G Lemos. We were office juniors together and shared many a laugh especially at the English bosses who were called Staples senior and Staples junior, both of whom were very stuffy. I had left the firm in 1957 and was living in North West London when I read about the rail crash.

    I saw Jean among the list of survivors in the paper, I wrote to her saying how shocked and sorry I was to hear her news. She wrote back describing her ordeal, I remember her telling me how she had to lie flat and use a man’s urine bottle to pee as she was not allowed to move. I later went into nursing and often thought of her and wondered how the hell she managed that task.

    I would love to hear how things are now, I do know she married Ron and had a child, and I wonder if she remembers that wild teenager Carol who finally grew up and became respectable. I would love to year from her.

    By Carol Kibbin (05/03/2020)
  • Blooming heck ! I’m glad I read this, but almost wish I hadn’t. I don’t think of myself as a particularly emotional person, however I did find my eyes welling up as I read your story. Thanks for reminding me I am human after all. Hope your continued suffering isn’t unbearable. 

    By Donald Joy (02/10/2015)
  • Hello Maureen did you live round the cornor to us in Devonshire Rd., near some other old friend of mine? I would love to hear from Linda and sister Pat Brooks and Pat Bartley there was also a large family the Billingtons, two of the girls worked for my mother in Baigent works love to know where they are now.

    By Gloria Sewell (17/10/2011)
  • My brother and father were also in that train, I remember it well, a lot of people from Laindon were hurt or killed.

    I went to Laindon School with Pat.

    My favourite teacher was Mr. Lane.

    By Maureen Venables now Froggatt (03/10/2011)
  • Jean and I now both live in Suffolk and have got back in touch after nearly 50 years I think Jean was very brave that night and the weeks that followed, during her recovery, that night was traumatic for so many people, we were a close knit community and I think every one had someone or knew somebody on the 6:20. The next day everyone had to go back to work on the trains and everyone supported each other. I am in touch with other old Laindoners and I think they are still the same.

    By Gloria Sewell (02/06/2011)

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