Tuesday, 13 October 2015

13/14 October 1940: The London Underground on this day 75 years ago

Thirty-seventh day/night of the London Blitz.

On Sunday 13 October 1940, windows at Bow Road District line station were broken by a nearby bomb blast.[1]

At 09:30 District line services were reversing at Mansion House and St James Park.[2]

Green Park and Hyde Park Corner stations were closed at 14:00 and 14:20 respectively, due to heavy firing of Anti-Aircraft guns in the Parks themselves. Both reopened at 14:50.[2]

Wembley Park station was hit by two High Explosive (HE) bombs at 19:47, damaging telephone wires and signals.[3]

The high-tension feeders at Harrow sub-station were damaged at 19:50. Power restored at 21:05.[3]

At 19:59 a nearby HE shattered glass in the roof of South Kensington station.[3]

A bomb close to Stanmore station at 20:07 injured a booking clerk, and killed 32-year-old Eric Charles Sargent, who lived in one of the flats above the station building. Glass in the station was smashed, and LPTB huts damaged.[3][4]

Service between Camden Town and Golders Green were suspended from 20:20 to 21:08 for a track examination.[5]

At 21:15 a bomb from a lone enemy aircraft demolished two houses directly above the east end of the westbound platform tunnel of Bounds Green Piccadilly line station - the image above shows the remains of the houses, with the wartime shielding to the station's ventilation tower being just visible top-right. Approximately 6-to-8 segments of tunnel collapsed on the scores of people on the platform sheltering from the air raid.[3] Services were suspended between Wood Green and Arnos Grove,[5] although they were resumed between Cockfosters and Enfield West (now Oakwood) the following day.[6] See below for further details.

Paddington (Praed Street) station on the Metropolitan line was hit by three bombs at 23:00, damaging the roof, platforms, and track.[7] Five people were either killed immediately or died of the injuries in situ, one person died in hospital the same day, and two on the following day, making eight in total.[8] Services suspended between Edgware Road and South Kensington.[5]

The short Metropolitan branch line to Chesham was suspended between 23:10 and 00:45.[5]

Bakerloo line services between Wembley Park and Baker Street were suspended at 23:21,[5] and resumed at 08:10 the following day.[6]

A bomb in the vicinity of Lords Metropolitan line station - between Baker Street and Finchley Road - at 23:21 damaged a retaining wall.[7]

At 01:06 on the 14th, Incendiary Bombs on West Brompton District line station started a twenty-pump fire.[9]

Northern line services were suspended at 07:20 between Woodside Park and High Barnet due to a suspected Delayed Action (DA) bomb near Woodside Park.[5] At 09:50 a second DA was discovered nearby.[6]

Bounds Green Station

At 11:00 on the 14th, Lt-Col. Mount of the Ministry of Transport made his customary inspection of the bomb site, and later reported:
"At about 21.17 on 13/10, a heavy bomb (500 kilo?) fell on two houses (Cranbrook) in Bounds Green Road, some 120 to 130 yards [119 to 128 metres] north of Bounds Green Station booking hall. The house (not the Board's property) were completely demolished, killing 4 people, and a huge crater was formed, 60 to 70 ft. [18 to 21 metres] diameter, and depth being about 20 ft. [6 metres] This was immediately above the north end of the southbound platform, where the tunnel is 21'1½" [6.4 metres] diameter, the top of it being 37 ft. [11.3 metres] below the surface; the tunnel iron was 1¼" [3.2 cm] thick.

The station building was not affected and the escalators (51.88 ft. rise) remained running; nor was the lighting affected. The top 22 segments of the platform tunnel, immediately under the crater, were broken in, and clay and debris fell through the hole, some 40' x 20', thus formed in the roof. Some 200 tons of debris filled the tunnel, enveloping refugees on the platform, 17 of whom were killed and 59 injured; it is estimated that 12 to 15 are still buried, and a temporary tunnel in iron will be commenced tonight at platform level to extricate the bodies.

The concrete lining inside the tunnel segments will have to be removed before full examination can be made of the lining, but no doubt more than 22 rings are affected.

The adjoining northbound tunnel was evidently shaken and moved, longitudinal cracks being apparent in the tiling and concrete filling. The platform nosing at the north end was also shifted 3" towards the track, which gives an idea of the vibratory movement. The platform had already been realigned in cement by the Board's staff, and the track appears fir for traffic; but it will be unsafe to put it into operation on account of the instability of the crater debris, and until the loose muck is secured it seems unlikely that the northbound line can be opened, say, for ten days."
He also noted:
"The attack cannot have been directed towards the Tube, and the hit must have been fortuitous; it appears that the enemy was attempting to cut off King's Cross, by hitting the south end of the L. & N.E.R. main line tunnel between Wood Green Station and New Southgate, the south end of the tunnel being only a few hundred yards to the west of Bounds Green Station. The main line here has ordinary signals and not colour-lights, but there was brilliant moonlight. This appears to be the only explanation as there is no aerodrome nearby."
Added by hand to Mount's report was: "This is the 6th bomb damage to Tube tunnelling."

The damage was so extensive that it was decided that the only way to tackle it would be to expand the crater into a timber-lined trench covering the whole width of the damaged platform tunnel, which could then be rebuilt, before being covered over again. Mount estimated that this would require, "some 4,000 running feet of 12' by 12' and 14' x 14' timbers, at least 34 ft. long."[10]

Repairs were started on 25 October, and completed on 12 December. Traffic was running again four days later, and the site cleared the following day.[11]

The number and composition of the fatal casualties in this incident has long been a cause of confusion. In 1947 the London Passenger Transport Board published its own account of its operations during the War, London Transport Carried On, by Charles Graves. Clearly heavily based on its own records, it stated:
"In fact, nineteen people were killed, all except three of whom were Belgians. A local colony of refugees from Belgium had ensconced themselves at the far end of the west platform on the first night of the blitz. They kept themselves to themselves, and it was only because they had been blitzed out of two homes in forty-eight hours that the foreman ticket-collector had permitted three British subjects to shelter in the Belgians' section of the platform.

The ticket-collector had just made this arrangement when he decided to ascend to ground level and make a personal reconnaissance of the blitz overhead. A solitary German aircraft had been flying round for nearly half an hour, evidently in search of a particular target. As the ticket-collector stared upwards he heard the whizz of a bomb, followed by a crash of glass. The bomb had fallen on top of four 3-storeyed house to the right of the station. The ground did not vibrate unduly and he presumed that no particular damage had been done.

However, as he walked down to platform level he heard screaming. Half the platform was in darkness. At the far end he could see that the tunnel had caved in. Having allocated the sleeping accommodation only a few minutes previously, he knew that at least sixty people were involved. Crowds were milling around the safe section of the platform. He promptly sent a porter to the local A.R.P. headquarters and, himself, hurried to a nearby hospital which provided two doctors and six nurses.

With these reinforcements he returned to the scene and made his way behind the debris where he found fifteen or twenty injured Belgians. These were removed to hospital.... By 3.0 a.m. all the injured people had been taken away, but nearly a week elapsed before all the corpses had been removed."[12]
As a primary source, Graves's description and numbering of the fatalities has been repeated by other authors over the years, with each such citation building upon and reinforcing those previously. In some cases writers elaborated on the sparse details Graves gives to highlight the supposed irony of the death toll. Carpenter, for example, notes:
"It was particularly poignant that the strict allocation system had been instrumental in selecting the victims. Sixteen of the fatalities were Belgian refugees who were permanently allotted to the east end of the platform. The remaining three were British newcomers to the shelter who had been temporarily placed in the Belgian area by the station foreman."[12]
Halliday similarly states:
"The nature of the casualties [at Bounds Green] made this a particularly tragic episode. Sixteen of the dead were Belgian refugees who had fled their country at the time of the Dunkirk invasion and had created a Belgian enclave at one end of the platform. On this particular night they had welcomed three English people who had been bombed out of two homes. All nineteen were killed."[13]
It is hardly surprising, then, that in 1994 this plaque was installed at the eastern end of the westbound tunnel:

In actual fact, however, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records sixteen people dying at the scene - only three of whom were Belgian - and a seventeenth dying in hospital. Another four people were killed in the houses demolished by the bomb. It is notable that these figures match those in Mount's initial report precisely.

Apart from the three Belgians, all the surnames of the victims suggests that they were of British extraction, with the exception of four members of a family with an Italian surname, although there is strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that they were all born in the UK, rather than being recent immigrants. Their home address, however, was some eight kilometres from the station, more than twice as far as all the other victims, with the exception of a Women's Voluntary Service member, who may very well have been at the station in that capacity. This suggests, then, that it was the Necchi family who were the recent arrivals in the area.[15]

[1] Railway Executive Committee: Files: Form D1, 06:00-18:00 13/10/40, page 1 [Kew: National Archives, reference AN 2/1105]
[2] Railway Executive Committee: Files: Form RWD1, 06:00-18:00 13/10/40, sheet 1 [Kew: National Archives, reference AN 2/1105]
[3] Railway Executive Committee: Files: Form D2, 18:00 13/10/40 to 06:00 14/10/40, sheet 2 [Kew: National Archives, reference AN 2/1105]
[4] CWGC record
[5] Railway Executive Committee: Files: Form RWD2, 18:00 13/10/40 to 06:00 14/10/40, sheet 1 [Kew: National Archives, reference AN 2/1105]
[6] Railway Executive Committee: Files: Form RWD1, 06:00-18:00 14/10/40, sheet 2 [Kew: National Archives, reference AN 2/1105]
[7] Railway Executive Committee: Files: Form D2, 18:00 13/10/40 to 06:00 14/10/40, sheet 3 [Kew: National Archives, reference AN 2/1105]
[8] Casualty & Fatalty Analysis: Paddington (Praed Street) 13/10/40
[9] Ministry of Home Security, Key Points Intelligence Directorate: Reports and Papers, Daily Reports - October 1940: Damage Appreciation 13-14/09/40, page 3 [Kew: National Archives, reference HO 201/3]
Archives, reference AN 2/1105]
[10] Ministry of Transport and successors, Railway Divisions: Correspondence and Papers, Air Raid Damage - Underground Railways, 1941-1942 [Kew: National Archives, reference MT 6/2766]
[11] Ministry of Transport and successors, Railway Divisions: Correspondence and Papers, Air Raid Damage - Underground Railways, 1940-1941 [Kew: National Archives, reference MT 6/2759]
[12] London Transport Carried On (Charles Graves, 1947, London Transport)
[13] Underground to Everywhere (Stephen Halliday, 2001, Sutton Publishing/London Transport Museum, ISBN 0-7509-2585-X)
[14] Piccadilly Line Extension - The Diamond Anniversary (Barry Carpenter, 1992, Piccadilly Line [East Area])
[15] Casualty & Fatalty Analysis: Bounds Green 13/10/40


Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home