March 3, 2009
The Bethnal Green disaster was one of a number of tragedies at London underground stations during World War II.
Balham underground station in Wandsworth, south London was the site of a catastrophic bombing during October 1940.
A fragmentation bomb exploded at street level creating a large crater which a bus subsequently drove into, penetrating a water pipe. Water and debris flooded into the station causing the deaths of 111 people and numerous injuries.
The attack, which has since been portrayed in popular culture, such as in the 2007 film ‘Atonement’, was one of several fatal disasters during the air raids of the World War II.
The deep level of underground stations created ideal refuge for the thousands of Londoners who sought shelter during attacks by German aircraft. While regarded as safe, several incidents resulted in civilian casualties.
One of the most damaging attacks was on Bank station in January 1941. A bomb directly impacted upon the the ticket stall of the underground station, taking the lives of 56 people, injuring 69 and causing considerable damage to the building. The station was forced to close for two months and a bridge implemented over the crater to allow traffic onto the roads.
Some 20 civilians were also killed by a bomb blast while taking shelter in Marble Arch station in September 1940.
The Bethnal Green tube disaster followed in 1943 where 173 were killed as the result of mass panic.
By Sam Gournay
For WNOL’s photo slideshow of the Bethnal Green memorial service, click here.