AS midnight approached on a spring night over half-a-century ago, residents in a tiny Herefordshire community thought war had returned when a mighty roar rocked the neighbourhood. Flashback recalls the night Mother Nature succeeded where Adolf Hitler had failed.

TIME after time during the early years of the Second World War, Hitler's forces attempted to wipe out a little bridge spanning the River Wye in the back of one of Herefordshire's many beautiful beyonds.

Between 1940 and 1941 - on five different occasions - bombs fell within 200 yards of the railway bridge at Strangford. Not a brick budged and the splattering of mud and dirt mattered not a jot.

But as peace returned to the green and pleasant land, another foe attacked that little edifice. And Mother Nature succeeded where the Fuhrer had failed.

Happily, there was no loss of life - although a mere matter of 30 minutes had made all the difference.

Within half-an-hour of the last train from Ross-on-Wye to Hereford crossing the bridge near Fawley Station on a spring Friday in 1947 the centre pier collapsed, bringing down with it the two adjoining sections. The culprit was heavy floodwater undermining the foundation of the pier.

The last train across was a goods train which reached Fawley at about 11 pm following the 9.25 pm passenger train from Gloucester to Hereford. Just before midnight nearby residents heard the roar of the bridge collapsing into the foaming waters.

They immediately informed the signalman at Fawley who passed the message to Ross Station where the necessary steps were taken to divert all traffic from the bridge.

The stonework of the pier entirely disappeared into the river. The adjoining troughs, with ballast, and weighing a total of about 50 tons, formed a V-shape from the piers on either side into the bed of the river.

A total length of 80 ft of the track was left suspended in an undulating manner 35 ft above the swollen river. The bank on the upstream side of the river had subsided.

Bus services were run from Ross Station to Fawley, but as these were unable to use the more direct road through Hoarwithy - owing to the bridge there being unsafe for traffic - the journey from Ross to Fawley took as long as the train normally took to go from Ross to Hereford.