Balham Underground Station was one of the many deep level tube stations where people sheltered during the Blitz in World War 2.
On the night of October 14, 1940, at 8.02 pm, a 1400 kg semi-armour piercing fragmentation bomb fell onto the road just above the northern end of the platform tunnels. It created a large crater, severing water and sewer lines, and the ceiling of the northbound tunnel below the road collapsed, creating an avalanche of water, earth and gravel that quickly buried and killed nearly 70 of the 600 people sheltering there, including several London Transport staff. A further 70 were injured.
The debris flowed down the platform and through the cross passages to the southbound side, although the damage was not as extensive as on the northbound side.
It was one of the worst disasters to happen in the UK during the Second World War.
This is a photo taken of the northbound platform at Balham Underground Station, looking north, after the ceiling collapsed.
As the press was heavily censored due to wartime regulations, most of the details of the damage, deaths and injuries were not reported.
You can read more details about the bombing at these excellent websites:
There’s a very good article about the casualties and how the incident was reported in the press, here:
Wednesday October 14, 2020 will mark the 80th anniversary of the Balham bombing. To commemorate the event, Riverside Radio in South London will be broadcasting a new documentary about the tragedy.
The program starts at 8.00pm (British time) and will run for one hour, featuring memories from families, relatives and experts. The show also features Simon Cook, the current London Underground Station Manager at Balham; and Nick Cooper, who is an expert on the London Underground and has made a special study of how the Second World War impacted upon its operation, the role the Underground played in the lives of Londoners, and what survives from that era.
You can tune in to the broadcast on DAB Digital radio, online at www.RiversideRadio.com or by asking a smart speaker to ‘Play Riverside Radio’.
There’s also a Facebook page here:
And there’s more information about the radio broadcast here:
In 2016 I wrote a novel called In Loving Memory. It was the second of my time travel stories detailing the adventures of Charlie Lowe and her 19th century companion, Shaun Deeley. The storyline takes Charlie and Shaun back to London in 1940, where they find themselves trapped in Balham Station at exactly the time that the bomb is due to drop. They know what’s going to happen…but what can they do?
My website has a couple of pages dedicated to photos of the damage at Balham from 1940, and photos of the station as it appears now. Here are the links:
Balham in 1940
I recently got the rights to In Loving Memory back from my former publisher, and reissued the book with a new cover.
The photo was taken by Karen Lillystone and it is actually the northbound platform at Balham, looking south. The clock is a replica, but it is fixed at the same spot as the clock in the 1940 photo above.
I also reissued all three of my time travel books in one omnibus volume.
This cover photo was taken by Simon Cook (yes! the same Simon Cook who is Balham’s station manager), and shows the northbound platform looking north. You can compare it to the 1940 photo, above, and, hauntingly, see how much debris actually filled the tunnel.
If you’re interested in reading In Loving Memory or the omnibus edition, you can find both on Amazon.
In Loving Memory
Paperback ISBN 978-1777298678
Ebook ASIN B08DC6DV8H.
Paperback ISBN 978-1777298685
Ebook ASIN B08DKHRCM1.
I’m very grateful to both Simon Cook and Nick Cooper for the assistance they gave me as I was researching In Loving Memory, and I will be listening to the broadcast and remembering the many souls that were lost on October 14.