The Café de Paris bomb

Bomb damage to London's railway system caused massive disruption. Repairing the damage was dangerous - a delayed action bomb killed three railway workers on the morning of the 9th.

The band leader ‘Snakehips’ Johnson died at the Cafe de Paris, previously thought to be a safe West End venue because it was located in a basement. There were many stories about the bombing. Molly Panter-Downes recorded just one in her column for the New Yorker magazine:

one of the West End night haunts got it, and those who sat enjoying a quiet bedtime Scotch on the balcony there had a terrifying experience of seeing the ceiling come down on the dancers below while they themselves were left perched intact on the edge of chaos, their glasses freakishly unspoilt in front of them.

See Mollie Panter-Downes: London War Notes 1939-1945

A full scale raid on London on the evening of the 8th caused death and destruction over a wide area:


Situation Report As At 18.00 (8/3/41): There is nothing to report.

Situation Report As At 0600 hours 9/3/41.

Part I

This was the worst air raid since early January, but was not on the scale of many last year. London was at alert from 1948 to 0003. All groups and 55 local authorities were affected, but the main weight of attack fell on the centre of London. HE’s were mixed with IB’s from the beginning of the raid, and although many IB’s (some stated to be of a new type – see below)* were dropped, fire raising did not appear to be the first object of the raid. IB’s were put out very quickly and only two fires required more than 10 pumps. All were under control by midnight.

Preliminary casualty reports show a total of 129 killed, 152 seriously injured and 310 slightly injured for the region.

The worst single incident occurred at the Café de Paris where so far 34 dead and 80 casualties taken to hospital have been reported.

*Barnes and Croydon Fire Brigades reported what appeared to be a new type of incendiary bomb, which exploded on impact throwing up a number of rockets to a height of about 200 feet, the rockets dying out before reaching the ground. Lewisham wardens report I.B’s burning with red glare which were more difficult to extinguish than the usual type. One of these are available for inspection at Lewisham Police Station.

5 HE fell on or near Buckingham Palace, and one demolished North Lodge at 20:56. Believed 2 casualties.

Part II

20.45 – 20.55 3 HE Church Street Kensington. 4 killed 36 injured.

21.15 7 HE’s hit Hornsey 3 killed, 10 serious, 8 slight.

21.30 Liverpool St Station was damaged by H.E. which fell between Platform 4 and 5. Railway working is further impeded by UXB in local sidings which fell at the same time. 9/3/41: 3 platelayers were killed when a D.A.B. exploded.

Rollins Street railway embankment damage – up line damage.

Bishopsgate telephone exchange damaged by HE and is out of action.

UXB has caused the evacuation of the surgical ward of Guy’s Hospital.

21.30 – 23.00 21 HE’s & 110 IBs and one oil bomb hit West Ham (Glico Petroleum Works) 43 casualties.

21.35 Cloak Lane Police Station in the City demolished, 2 killed, 12 injured.

Westminster: 21:40 Café de Paris Coventry Street. Casualties:- 34 killed, approximately 82 seriously injured.

21.58 HE Dean Street. 10 killed. Damage to property.

HE: High Explosive, IB: Incendiary Bomb, UXB: Unexploded Bomb, DAB: Delayed Action Bomb.

See London Metropolitan Archive Reference FB/WAR/LFR/1/23 (LCDR SITUATION REPORTS 103/1/9) .

Earlier in the war:

Later in the war: