A memorial for eight soldiers who died in a huge explosion in Savernake Forest more than 76 years ago is set to be unveiled.

Eight soldiers were killed and another six seriously injured when 27 rail freight wagons carrying 200 tonnes of Second World War ammunition blew up at the North Savernake Sidings near Cadley on January 2 1946.

People living up to 30 miles away heard the series of massive explosions from munitions loaded onto the wagons in a Great Western Railway siding.

The wagons were loaded with Allied and German shells, bullets and mines brought back from Europe after the war ended in 1946. The explosion set off a chain reaction of blasts that destroyed the wagons and endangered many more.

Historian Neil Stevens says that if it had not been for the bravery of a handful of men who moved the railway wagons loaded with munitions away from the blazing wreckage there would have been a much bigger blast.

Mr Stevens said: “The memorial will commemorate the eight men who died and celebrate the bravery of those who helped to avert further explosions that could have devastated Marlborough.”

Relatives of those involved will join Marlborough ‘s mayor Cllr Lisa Farrell and other civic dignitaries when the stone memorial is dedicated at 2.30pm on Sunday, April 23.

They will include David Moore, who is travelling to Marlborough from Canada with his family to attend the ceremony.

His father, Harold Moore, of George Lane, Marlborough, was an acting checker for GWR who was involved in the event in 1946.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: The stone plinth will carry a tablet commemorating the explosion at the North Savernake Sidings on January 2 1946. Photo: Roddy MillarThe stone plinth will carry a tablet commemorating the explosion at the North Savernake Sidings on January 2 1946. Photo: Roddy Millar (Image: Roddy Millar)

The stone plinth and a tablet recounting the story of the Savernake explosion will be located in New Road, which will be closed to traffic during the ceremony.

The memorial will be dedicated by Kevin Jones, Padre of the Royal Logistic Corps at Didcot, and will detail the names of the eight soldiers who died, as well as the names of those awarded medals for their bravery.

“The memorial will tell the whole story of the explosion for those who have no prior knowledge of the event,” said Mr Stevens.

“We want to educate people to what happened on that day and how close the town came to significant damage which was averted by the gallantry of those who were commended for their bravery.”

A fundraising campaign led by former soldier Ed Newman raised more than £8,000 to pay for the memorial in Marlborough town centre.

It included a donation from the Royal Logistic Corps Association that enabled work to begin on making the plinth.

Mr Newman said: “Some people in Marlborough still have memories from when they were children of the explosion, because it was such a big event.”

The British Army will provide a guard of honour for the ceremony, and Mr Stevens has enlisted help from the World War 2 reenactment group, The Garrison Artillery Volunteers from Larkhill.

They will be bringing WW2 British Army vehicles and uniformed personnel to represent the soldiers who died.

Mr Stevens has also managed to locate a 1943 National Fire Service fire engine to represent the emergency services who responded to the explosion.

But he is still looking for period GWR vehicles and uniformed personnel to represent the driver, fireman and shunter who risked their lives to move other rail freight wagons loaded with ammunition away from the blazing wreckage.

Anyone who can help should contact Mr Stevens on gmc353@me.com