51 killed in direct hit on Bank Station

Bomb crater in the middle of the City of London
The enormous crater created when a bomb fell on Bank underground station on the 11th January 1941.

The City of London, the commercial centre at the heart of London continued to be a target, long after the notable [permalink id=9653 text=”raid of 29th December”] had devastated so much of it.

The London Underground station ‘Bank’ lies under the intersection of roads in the heart of the City of London, close to the Bank of England. When it was hit by a bomb at a minute to 8pm on the 11th January it was initially thought that 35 people had died, mainly those in the booking hall immediately under the impact of the bomb. As the rescue and recovery work continued it became apparent that the blast had travelled down the escalators and stairs, killing people in its path as well as people on the platforms deep underground.

The final death toll was believed to be 51. The damage was so extensive that it was necessary for the Army to build a temporary ‘Bailey bridge’ across the crater.

Mr T Sergeant gave evidence to the subsequent enquiry

I actually escaped obliteration myself by about one minute, since, in company with a Hungarian doctor whom I had met in the train on the way up from Sevenoaks, I had just got into the Bank station and down on the Central Line platform before the bomb fell into the booking hall. What happened there I only know of second-hand. We were amongst those caught on the Central Line platform. The explosion was pretty fierce, the lights went out and the air was so thick with dust that torches were of little use. Most of those sleeping at the bottom of the escalator seemed to have been killed outright as well as one or two on the platform.

Just outside a few yards from where we were standing a large number were hurt by falling debris and tiles, or so it appeared in the dark. The main trouble was that in the darkness no one knew what to do, and here is my first comment – that some emergency lighting is required in the stations which cannot be classed as deep.

There appeared to be no first-aid post at all on the Central Line, unless it was wiped out and no-one to take charge. A P.C. did good work in finding the exit to the Northern line and showing some of the people where it was. A porter tried for a long time to get a message through to another station.

The doctor and I organised a few people as best we could to collect the casualties and prevent them being trampled on in the dark. I got hold of some soldiers to help carry some I of them down to the Northern Line lift entrance where the doctor started to work on them.

NB: I have updated this entry following further research, some sources give the number killed at 111 but this may be a reference to all casualties killed or seriously injured.

In 2016 (see comments) I was sent the following link to Nick Cooper’s ANALYSIS OF CASUALTY & FATALITY FIGURES, it is well worth checking out the rest of his site and his book London Underground at War.

The Bank of England and Royal Exhange after the raid during the night of 11 January 1941. The bomb exploded in the booking-hall of the Bank Underground Station. The crater, 1,800 sq ft in area, was the largest in London.
The Bank of England and Royal Exhange after the raid during the night of 11 January 1941. The bomb exploded in the booking-hall of the Bank Underground Station. The crater, 1,800 sq ft in area, was the largest in London.

Sometime after writing this post I was sent the following image by Scott Rinehart:

From a dryawing made from a window in the National Provincial Bank, January 13-18 1941. Signed "RG Mathews, 1948".
From a dryawing made from a window in the National Provincial Bank, January 13-18 1941. Signed “RG Mathews, 1948”.

16 thoughts on “51 killed in direct hit on Bank Station”

  1. My maternal grandfather, Robert Letton “Bob”, worked at 13 Cornhill for the Scottish Equitable Life Assurance Society.
    In his own words..
    “I was firewatching throughout the Blitz, two nights on and one night off… But the night I shall never forget was the one when a heavy bomb fell just outside the Office, caving in the Bank Station and killing over 200 people. I was standing at the door at the time and the blast threw me back into the hall; three men sheltering in the doorway were not so fortunate and died from the effects of the explosion. When I had picked myself up I stood in the middle of Cornhill with my torch, stopping the fire engines and ambulances from plunging into the enormous crater, and then I did what I could to help with the casualties.
    This is the first time I have realised from the photos how large the devastation was from this bomb!

  2. My Great Aunt Doris Gates, Her Husband Arnold Gates, Daughter Shelia Gates and Brother-in-Law Albert Gates were on the platforms at Bank Station. Great Aunt Doris survived but was badly injured. Unfortunately the rest of the Family didn’t fair so well and either died immediately or in the days to follow. It was said that the 3 family members who died were blown into the path on an oncoming tube train

  3. My mums eldest sister was killed here age15 , Ivy Kappes, I think the war office should arrange a plaque to these civilians

  4. I worked some 30 years after this event in the very 1 Princes Street bank mentioned above with R G Mathews’ 1948 drawing – later renamed National Westminster Bank. Some of the much older staff had been employees at the time but were not inclined to speak of it; clearly an extremely traumatic time. The Bank station, both at street level and underground, remained very poorly reconstructed from an aesthetic perspective for more than a half-century until finally being invested in around the turn of the millennium. In the bowels of the bank, 1, 2 & 3 floors below ground, could still be found deformations in walls & frames from the blast.

  5. My Grandfather, Alfred Gilbert was a crane driver in a rescue team. His crane fell in the crater but he was rescued with severe burns. He was treated with pioneering skin graft surgery that many aircrew were also saved by. Sadly he lived in pain and received no compensation or disability payments. He returned to work and worked until normal retirement age. He left a trail of correspondence with unsympathtic bureaucrats.

    As well as the personal risk of clearing a bombsite, these men also bore the burden of witnessing human tragedy. Obviously many victims were injured or deceased when they were pulled out. There is not much more to report. He never spoke of his experiences as was the way with his generation.

  6. My grandfather Albert Young served as a Captain in WW1 for the AHAC in the Somme at one point. When he re-enlisted with the AHAC for WW2 he was too old for the front to his apparent frustration so he was tasked with training and home front activities. He was guarding the Bank of England with a couple of others that night and when the bomb hit they were blown down a lift shaft (not as exciting as it sounds according to my grandma who said it was only a few feet). By all accounts it displaced his heart by an inch. He never said anything about it and we only found out after his death from grandma. I don’t know what happened to the others. She didn’t know. Seems typical of the experience of the older folk that they didn’t think they were doing anything special or noteworthy other than their duty. It seems to be that in their eyes they were lucky to have survived and so it wasn’t their place to complain. I’m not sure I could have done that. In fact I’m certain.

  7. My grandfather was very badly injured in this bomb his name was Dennis Ottley, any information would be great as doing research

  8. Is there a list of people who died just wonder if my Grandfather was there?

  9. My grandmother recorde in her diary on 13th January 1941 that her husband, (Major Alex Sanderson DSO MC bar, former OC 3rd Australian Tunnelling Company 1916-19 and in charge of repairs to the the London Underground during the Blitz, aged 60 years old ):
    “ We had a heavy air raid on London on Saturday. Alex was called to go into the office as one of the tubes had been hit and many killed. Alex did not get home till 3.30 a.m. on Monday. Such a terrible bomb had fallen through to the underground station and made a huge crater outside the Bank of England. The crater is so big they will have to build a temporary bridge over it to allow traffic to proceed. Poor people were blown on to the electric line and killed. Hundreds of soldiers are working clearing the debris. At one time everything was stopped to see if they could hear any sound of anyone trapped. “

  10. My father Ron Morley was taking cover at Liverpool street, the next station north along the central line.

    He has since written about his wartime memories as an 11 year old from the east end, along with his 12 year old brother Bill and their Mum and Dad.

    An poignant extract reads…..”Whilst it is not possible, nor practical, to try to give a detailed account of those months in the Underground, it is, nevertheless, worth describing in some detail a few of the unusual events that occurred during that period.

    The first of these happened late one night when we were asleep when we were suddenly awakened by a loud muffled “boom!”, followed by a rush of air through the tunnel coming from the direction of the City.
    Shortly afterward there was a call on the “Tannoy” radio system for men to volunteer to walk through the tunnel in the direction of the Bank station , the next one further down the Central Line, as an incident had occurred which required their urgent assistance.
    Dad joined the group of the volunteers, which comprised of most men from those who were sheltering. Those of us who were left behind on the platform watched with some trepidation as they disappeared into the darkness of the tunnel, which had, by that time, had its main power supplies to the rails disconnected, with only the emergency lighting on.
    It was some time after, in the early hours; before they returned, looking exhausted and haggard.
    Dad told us that they had walked down the line for half a mile or so until they reached the back end of a train, which had stopped half way into the station They then entered the train and walked through the carriages until they reached the front section, which projected into the platform, where they were then greeted with a scene of chaos and devastation.
    Most of the few people in the train were either dead or seriously wounded, and as they made their way to the platform they were met with a similar, but worse, situation.
    It transpired that a bomb had fallen very close to the entry to the station concourse, and the effect of this had been to transfer much of the massive blast down the escalator shafts and directly into the platform areas where, sadly, it caused a considerable number of casualties among the people sheltering there.

    Dad told us later that, as the first people to arrive on the scene, it was only possible for them to carry out limited assistance, such as stretcher bearing to help the medical people as they gradually arrived on the scene, or to offer comfort to the wounded. Dad was obviously badly shaken. He also told us that the strangest thing about the incident was that there was little signs of physical damage to either the building or to the persons killed or wounded, due, no doubt, to the fact that it was due to blast alone.”

  11. I found a copy of the photograph shown, in my late aunt’s possessions. It would have been printed at the time of the incident, when my uncle was a fireman in London. I always wondered exactly what had happened – now I know.

  12. I own a work by War Artist Richard George Mathews (1870-1955) which depicts the cleanup efforts following the Bank Underground bombing. It was completed in 1948.

  13. just been researching two gravestones in Tower Hamlets Cemetry where civilians are recorded as having been killed by enemy action on 11.1 41, one is listed as having been killed at Bank, he is (Albert Victor Smart) , the other (George W, Aldridge) was killed on that day but there is no record of where he was killed anywhere on the web, maybe he was killed at Bank and that is why there is discrepancy in the number of total deaths. I am a bit dismayed by the state of some of the gravestones of those civilians who died in WW2, CHILDREN IN THE SCHOOLS SHOULD BE TAUGHT ABOUT THIS HISTORY. (I am a teacher myself but was forced out because of the paperwork which only the younger niave teachers can seem to deal with).

  14. I never realised Bank station was so badly damaged but I suppose so much of that part of London was badly hit.

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