A LACK of permanent warning signs farther up, a narrow road and the steep slope of London Street were blamed for this horrific crash that happened at 8.25am on the Tuesday morning of 5th September 1961. In those days, one of the main routes into town was down Micheldever Road and into London Street. This was a continuous road and priority was given to this traffic, rather than that coming from London Road which had to give way.

An articulated lorry carrying 15 tons of crepe packed in wooden boxes, having exited Micheldever Road, careered down London Street at high speed. Evidently, the brakes failed and the driver suddenly realised that he was approaching traffic lights at the bottom of the hill. He slammed on the horn to alert unsuspecting pedestrians, in a desperate attempt to avoid an impending disaster.  

As bad luck would have it, the lights were showing red with a queue of six vehicles waiting. Rapidly approaching and powerless to stop, the driver’s last resort was to try to turn the lorry over. However, it was too late to stop a collision and although the lorry did roll over onto its side, it also jack-knifed and the trailer swung across the width of the street and ploughed into the three rear-most vehicles in the queue which were still waiting at the lights – an Austin pick-up truck, a Triumph Mayflower saloon and a Standard saloon.

The cab itself, carrying the driver - 46-year-old ex-paratrooper Charles Edgell from Aveley, Essex – had mounted the pavement and continued to tear along the line of shops in London Street, smashing windows as it went. Those affected were the Bendix self-service launderette, Simmond’s camera shop, Cooper’s hairdressing salon, Yvonne (another ladies’ hairdresser) and the Andover Gift Shop. Sidney Fitchew, who owned the newsagent farther up the street said: "It was as if a bomb had gone off".

The driver of the lorry was trapped by his legs in the cab and had to be released by the fire brigade, and taken to hospital. William Noble, a local market gardener, was the driver of the pick-up truck, which was completely wrecked but he escaped with just a slight back injury. Worst-affected was Mr and Mrs Stanley Jones of Basingstoke who were in the Triumph Mayflower saloon which had the roof torn off. Both had severe head injuries and Mrs Jones was unconscious. They were taken to Southampton hospital but both recovered in a few days.

Many people rushed to help. Chief Inspector Bowen heard the crash. Having just entered the police station and still in his shirtsleeves, he organised the rescue work. Soon an assortment of police, ambulances, fire brigade, breakdown vehicles and council workmen set about their allotted tasks. Employees from the Southern Fyne Laundry on the opposite side of the road brought blankets and sheets for the injured.

Within two hours, the injured had been taken to hospital and the road cleared of both debris and vehicles. The firemen hosed down the street and it was covered in sand to soak up the oil and the road re-opened.

There were no fatalities. Thankfully, it was the last day of the school holidays, as otherwise at that time in the morning London Street would have been full of children walking to school and the story could have been tragically very different.

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