The train had been in the station for about five minutes and the passengers had already boiled out onto the platform. Being under no deadlines and with only the prospect of getting into yet another experiment at the lab in University College London, I sat back and read my book. I would have plenty of warning before the train would leave again and so I got lost in the novel.
“What are you doing?”
I looked up to find a rather perturbed looking policeman of about my age speaking to me.
“Reading”, was my sheepish response.
Without further ado he instructed me to go with him, now!
Scrabbling to put my book in my bag I exited the carriage and jogged a couple of steps to catch up to him. We strode side by side down a completely empty platform towards the unmanned ticket barrier. The station was eerily quiet. No noise of trains. No hubbub from crowds seeking their trains. Almost silence.
As we padded through the platforms gate onto a deserted concourse my bobby muttered, “Bomb scare.”
He led me through the concourse. We weaved our way between newspaper stands, advertising bollards, benches and other obstacles. At each of these he was twisting his head right and left looking at the ground behind each obstacle.
The concourse main doors were open and we boldly marched through into the sunshine and turned right. Before me at the edge of Melton Street I saw a police tape barrier and a small crowd being watched over by two policemen. Everyone stared at us as we marched in step up to the barrier. Once there my bobby lifted the tape and I ducked through. I turned to face my policeman believing he may wish to ask more questions.
Before he could speak there was a deep muffled bang, followed by large areas of the plate glass side to Euston Station crashing to the ground!
We stared at the mess for a couple of seconds. Then we stared at each other. Both of us were probably thinking the same thing. Less than a minute before we were walking across the concourse and now it’s probably in a terrible mess. He raised a small smile, turned and ran back into the station.
I turned on my heel and walked over to University College arriving about five minutes later.
That evening when arriving home I told Rhiain I had been close to an IRA bomb when it went off in Euston Station. She looked at me for a few moments then asked if I was alright. “I’m not injured”, I reassured her. “Yes, but are you alright?” was her concern. “I assure you, I am absolutely Fine!”
Forty years later, in 2013, I related my story to two impressionable students who were working with me on a construction site North of Cobourg, Ontario. They were wide eyed. Being plugged in, they soon had the Google reference for the Euston Station and King’s Cross Station bombings on the 10thSeptember 1973. To my surprise they informed me there had been two bombs that morning and thirteen people had been injured. The first five at King’s Cross Station, followed 15 minutes later by another eight at Euston Station.
I had no idea there had been two bombings that day and was ignorant of people being hurt.
Perhaps I had not been quite so ‘Fine’ after all!
Dick walked into the tent and looked over his platoon. They all looked up from their dinner and stared at him.
‘Hello, Corporal. We didn’t expect you until late tonight.’
‘Yeah. We thought you would have a few pints at the King’s Head after your leave. Before coming back here that is.’
‘So you think I’m a piss artist, do you? I’ll remember that next time I’m considering placing you on a charge, Sandy.’
‘We all thought the same, Corp.’
‘So, you all want to be on a charge?’
‘Did you save any dinner for me?’
‘Good thing I had fish and chips before I got on the train in London.’
‘How was the ‘Smoke’, Corp?’
‘Full of smashed buildings and piles of bricks from the bombing. But everyone is bright enough. Now the worst of the Blitz is over, people are hoping these night raids will slowly tail off.’
‘How is the place your missus got to live in?’
‘Don’t ask. It’s a wreck. Windows all blown out and boarded up. Plaster cracked to hell. Roof leaks. Years of work to put the mess right.’
‘At least she has a roof over her head.’
‘A bloody land mine fell a few weeks back. Blew the house, two doors down the road, completely away.’
‘Sorry to hear that.’
‘Mind you lads, there is a big pub at the end of the road.’
‘What’s it called?’
‘The Swiss Cottage.’
‘I think I’ve seen it. A big white building.’
‘Suppose you paid it a visit, Corp?’
‘My sisters and their husbands came over and we visited the pub.’
‘Sounds like a good shindig, Corp?’
‘It was a family get together. That’s all lads.’
‘When we got home, I was really touched. Winn had remembered I love banana sandwiches and she gave me a round. I felt she really misses me.’
‘You sure they were banana’s, Corp?’
‘Of course they were.’
Dick looked over the eight men. He saw eight innocent looks.
What am I missing?
‘Sandy. Why are you all looking like butter wouldn’t melt in your mouths? What’s wrong?’
Sandy looked at his fellow Privates and then back to Corporal West.’
‘Sorry, Corp. But there ain’t been any bananas in Britain since early in 1940. Not sure what was in your sandwiches.’
Dick looked at his ‘lads’ and frowned.
‘What could it have been?’
Private Jones stepped in, ‘Well, Corp. If I was going to do that, I would boil some turnip, mash it up fine and then lace it with banana essence.’
Dick looked at his lads again.
‘Well, I did enjoy the sandwiches. I also enjoyed the beer at the pub.’
‘So, it was a good leave, Corp?’
‘You bet it was.’
‘That’s good, Corp, because it’ll be the last for a long time.’
‘Why’s that, Sandy?’
‘We were told this afternoon that all leave is cancelled and we are confined to barracks.’
‘We aren’t in a barracks.’
‘OK, Corp. We’re confined to camp until further notice.’
Dick looked at his lads.
‘Sounds like we are going over to France lads. I hope we all get to remember the summer of 1944.’