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As a young child in the early 1940s, I was quite used to the London Underground. Between Edgware, where my family lived, and Golders Green, the journey was above ground. After Golders Green, the line went underground - which was generally regarded as safe from the German bombs of World War Two.
I clearly remember underground tube journeys with both my parents, late in the evenings. (My father must have been home on leave, or maybe it was before he was called up for the army, and the experiences just stayed in my mind.) What struck me was all the people sitting and lying down on the station platforms, set up with their mattresses and blankets, ready for going to sleep for the night in what they saw as the safest of all underground bomb shelters.
I asked my parents if we could sleep on the platforms too, because to me - as a child - it looked like fun. But they always said no. I think they felt that if they were going to die, they would rather do it in their own home.
According to one of my cousins, I wouldn't have liked sleeping on a station platform anyway: Her mother travelled up to the City of London and back every day and often remarked on the dreadful stench of all those people bedded down together for the night. The station lavatories would not have been designed to cope with anything other than the needs of the occasional passenger. So there must have been a good number of open chamber pots - or worse.
As I looked down [from the steps] at the eastbound platform, my heart sank. There [seemed] thousands of them, hordes of jabbering people, mostly in brown or grey coats. They looked like a great mass of cockroaches spread out on the floor in front of me. Just to breathe, I had to concentrate.
[Apart from the safety from bombs] tube platforms are hazardous, packed with people in all states and conditions. Afraid and starved of daylight, some of them down there can be funny about their 'pitches' on the platform. I've heard stories about women effing and blinding at each other, fights blocking exits, blood on the platforms – everything.
from 'Last Rights' by Barbara Nadel
What I hadn't realised until years later when I started studying the old films of the time and talking to people older than myself who used to live in London was that the passages connecting the various platforms of the London Underground were officially air raid shelters, with bunk-style beds.
There were tickets to use these underground shelters. This was in contrast to the platforms where it was first-come first-served.