Curzon Street House W1

26 October 1940

By Kaitlyn Hanson

Just before noon on 26 October 1940 a high explosive bomb hit Curzon Street House W1, detonating at the base of the building and resulting in thirty casualties, thirteen of whom were killed. At this time, Curzon Street House - a 1930s block of flats - was being used for administration purposes by the War Office. As such, a number of the casualties resulting from this incident were soldiers.

The blast ripped the masonry off a main steel girder supporting the upper storeys; observers recalled that the building appeared to hang in the air from this single, precarious, support. 

The job of the arriving rescue workers was complicated by the timing of the bomb’s impact. It struck right after a crew of workers painting the interior of the building had broken off for lunch. The number of those at the site was initially unknown. Worse, the bomb had stuck the northwest corner of the building, near a washroom, which a number of workers were using.

The rescue workers' job was complicated by a large crowd of civilian onlookers. These bystanders broke through the ARP cordon and served to severely annoy those working at the scene. In one case, a rescue worker reputedly knocked a civilian out with his helmet.

Meanwhile, floods of water from broken pipes and clouds of dust hampered the rescue efforts. Banknotes were seen spread across one shattered floor, where an Army Pay office had been blown apart.

A temporary mortuary was soon set up in the nearby Dirty Dick Hotel.

The fact that Curzon House was in the process of being repainted only added to the chaos. Several of the injured removed from the wreckage showed a striking green tint to their skin. While this led some to believe that poison gas had been used in the attack, it was eventually proven to be simply paint. Red paint was also being used inside the building, which of course led to some confusion, as it naturally resembled blood.

The ARP incident report noted that human remains were subsequently found at the scene on 2 November 1940.

Curzon Street House was shored up and one wing was demolished after the 26 October incident (Westminster in War, William Sansom, 1947). The building suffered further blast damage in the heavy night raid of 10-11 May 1941.


Photo:ARP Permanent Record, Curzon Street House W1, 26 October 1940

ARP Permanent Record, Curzon Street House W1, 26 October 1940

Copyright: Westminster City Archives

Photo:ARP Permanent Record, Curzon Street House, 26 October 1940

ARP Permanent Record, Curzon Street House, 26 October 1940

Copyright Westminster City Archives

Curzon Street W1

This page was added by Kaitlyn Hanson on 26/04/2014.

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