Mr Leonard Flack

Laindon man saves lives

By W H Diment

Although not taking place in Laindon this story in connection with the rail history started there and a Laindon resident played a major part.

In April 1961 due to engineering work there was single line working over the up line between Laindon and Pitsea. The 12.25 pm train from Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness arrived at Laindon and was crossed from the down line to proceed to Pitsea with a pilotman, a Mr Leonard Flack a Laindon resident. On approaching the last set of catch points, Mr. Flack noticed they had been wrongly clipped and shouted a warning to the driver who immediately braked, but due to the heavy gradient and the weight of the coaches, the train continued to slide and the engine and first two coaches slid sideways over the embankment, but fortunately the couplings and remaining carriages  prevented them from falling further. The driver, fireman and Mr Flack had managed to jump clear. Although one man was killed and 40 others injured, some seriously, the diligence of Mr Flack had prevented what may have been a major catastrophe with a large loss of life.

The actions of Mr Flack in preventing this were never publicised. People have been decorated for far less.

This page was added by William Diment on 25/11/2011.
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One very human story arose from this disaster was that the person killed in the first coach was a Driver Fisher of Shoeburyness. He was one of three brothers, all three brothers were drivers. As recorded, the blame was due to an error by a lengthman manning the catch points who admitted his error. The lengthman was so affected that he handed in his notice and was placed on platform duties pending his departure. One day while was on duty, the driver of a stopping train alighted from his cab and gave the ex lengthman a box of fish. The driver's name was Fisher, a brother of the dead man. "To err is human, to forgive divine". MPPOE

By W.H.Diment
On 30/05/2012

Hi William, I loved your amusing comments involving you, Mr Flack and John Bathurst, thank you so much for sharing them with us.

The box of crisps some people don’t seem to use their brains when it comes to rules do they, still it makes for a funny after dinner tale.

Getting off the subject a bit like you and Mr Flack I spent some time in the Brecon Beacons one summer when my twins were children in a little mining village called Blaenavon.  When we went there 1983 the mine had been shut down for a few years but the industrious villages refused to let their village die and had opened the disused mine as a tourist centre and the village was flourishing, the mine was called the ‘Big Pit Mine’. I, with four under tens in tow, declined the opportunity to go down the mine, a chance missed I am afraid. 

I was also impressed with the miners welfare shop which was between two villages and run at non profit by the miners and their families. The families of the village of Blaenavon were lucky that despite the hardship their village lives on, unlike ours William

By Gloria Sewell
On 30/01/2012

Hallo Gloria, I am sure that Leonard is aware of how much he is held in esteem, as one person who regularly contributes to the archive does have contact with him. Leonard is a most unassuming man and it has been my privilege to to be with him socially.

I can remember one amusing incident some years ago when ariving in Merthyr Tydfil, just prior to a weekend climbing in the Brecons, it was just a few minutes short of 2 o'clock and we hurried into the local hostelry being very thirsty after a long journey. Leonard ordered a pint and drank it immediately and said to the barmaid "do I have time for another?", to which she replied "I think so sir, we do not close until 4 o'clock".

A further amusing incident occurred in that pub, as there was a group of us, John B. (another contributor to these columns) considered it would a good Idea to take some crisps for the weekend. He then said to the barmaid, "can I have a tin of crisps", to which she replied , "No sir I cannot sell you a tin of crisps", to which John said "how many packets are there in a tin", the answer as I remember was 40. John then said "I would like 40 packets", which were duly counted out, when John then said "have you anything I can put them in" to which the barmaid, '"yes sir, I have a tin here". I hope Len and John are not offended by my retating these memories.

By W.H.Diment
On 28/01/2012

How wonderful William, I wonder if he knows people still remember his actions. He desearves "A pride of Laindon award" along with many others on this site.

By Gloria Sewell
On 27/01/2012

Further to the letter of Brian Bayliss, I have learned only this week that Leonard Flack is still alive (circa 90 years of age) and still living in the area.

By W.H.Diment
On 25/01/2012

I had read about this before, but not as much as the details added here. Thank you Mr. Diment.

By Brian Baylis
On 25/01/2012