Charing Cross Station

16-17 April 1941

By Laura Zaepfel

Charing Cross Railway Station (built 1864) was first damaged in September 1940 and then, more seriously, in a daylight raid on 8 October 1940. At 8.50am, 8 October, German aircraft dopped three high explosive bombs on the Station during the rush hour, inflicting 48 casualties, including eight fatalities.

One bomb fell on the northern footway of the Victoria Embankment, damaging adjacent government buildings. The second penetrated the Southern Railway Station roof, causing debris to fall onto a stationary train and platforms. Many other passengers narrowly escaped death and injury: another train full of office workers had only just pulled out from its platform. The third bomb hit the District Railway Underground line, killing four civilians on one platform.

As the first phase of the Blitz neared its climax, Charing Cross faced fresh dangers. Late on 16 April 1941, the canopy of a falling parachute mine tangled on girders at the northern end of Hungerford Bridge, close to a blazing signal box fire and Platform 4. Flames began to creep to within yards of the dangling mine which threatened to devastate the bridge, the Station itself and the Embankment below. Firemen fought the signal-box fire throughout the night and finally brought the blaze under control.

The next morning a naval bomb disposal officer inspected the unexploded mine. He discovered that the mine's metal had been fused to the rails by the heat of the fire. The area was cleared before work began on removing it. The delicate work was successful: neither bridge nor Station were harmed.

This was not the only incident in the immediate area - the Charing Cross Hotel next to the Station was also badly damaged on 16-17 April 1941 - although it was the most problematic operation. In June 1944 Charing Cross Station was hit again and during July two V1 flying bombs fell into the Thames near the mainline and Underground stations. 10 civilians were injured in both these incidents.

It should be noted that throughout the Blitz, Charing Cross Station and the Southern Railway were never long out of service. Trains were slow or late and schedules were altered but rail services were always maintained. Transportation alternatives were successfully delivered as far as possible. The hardiness of London's railway staff lay at the core of London’s continued working life during the war.

For a passenger's experience of a raid at Charing Cross Station see:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/06/a4064906.shtml

 

 

Photo:Front of Charing Cross Station

Front of Charing Cross Station

Westminster City Archives

Photo:Charing Cross Station/Hotel

Charing Cross Station/Hotel

Westminster City Archives

Photo:Bomb Map: Hungerford Bridge

Bomb Map: Hungerford Bridge

Copyright Westminster City Archives

Charing Cross Station

This page was added by Laura Zaepfel on 24/06/2011.

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