Image Credit: Alan Myers/ Flickr
In the 150 years since it’s establishment the London Underground has played an important role in the country’s history. And none more important than it’s role during the Blitz. The time known as the Blitz was the sustained aerial bombing of Britain during World War Two. From the months of September 1940 to May 1941, such raids all around the country killed up to 43,000 civilians during this eight month period.
During both World Wars, the trains on the underground still operated. By day these were used to get around the city. But by night over 130, 000 people would use the stations as a shelter from the bombs. Liverpool Street Station was a popular choice for many and people sheltered in the incomplete and disused sections of the Central Line extension. Initially the government was opposed to this use for the underground, but in 1940, Winston Churchill agreed to the development of Aldwych station into an air raid shelter. Provisions were even made for sleeping bunks for those who sought refuge.
Image Credit: Leonard Bentley/ Flickr
Despite the clear benefits of sheltering underground, the sheer determination of the bombing on London, caused a number of fatalities at stations across the city. In 1940 during the month of October, sixty-six people were killed when a bomb exploded above the cross passage between two platforms at Balham station. The East London station Bethnal Green also suffered losses, when 173 people were crushed trying to enter the station to take refuge.
Conditions were extremely cramped underground, with people sleeping on escalators, platforms and even hanging hammocks across the rails themselves. But, in true British fashion, the affair was very civilised. A ticket system was put into place, so that people were able to reserve a space underground, as well as food trains and refreshment vendors and the use of chemical toilets whilst at the station.
If you would like to find out more about the London Underground, why not join our London Underground and Tube Tour.