As a young child in the early 1940s, I was quite used to the
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.
sleeping on the station platforms in the
blitz of WW2
People taking shelter from bombs on a platform of the
London Underground in World War Two. Photograph courtesy of Anne Davey, found in the effects of her mother, Ena Cole.
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
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.
Official London Underground shelters
Tickets for using the London Underground to shelter
from bombs in the blitz of WW2, detail from a picture in the London Transport Museum..
What I had not realised until I started studying the old films of the
time and then talking to people older than myself who used to live in
London was that the passages connecting the various platforms of the London
were officially air raid shelters. There were tickets to use them. This was
in contrast to the platforms where it was first-come first-served.
Pat Cryer (webmaster)
Screen shots from old films: left showing the sign to No 1 Air Raid Shelter in the London Underground, and right showing the bunk beds in the shelter.
People even slept on the escalators. Photo in the effects of Ena
People slept on the escalators when the platforms and passage shelters were
full up. Photo in the effects of Ena
This website Join me in the 1900s is © Pat Cryer.