WEDNESDAY: Euston Station

BY RICHARD WEST

Copyright is held by the author.

THE TRAIN had been in the station for about five minutes and the passengers had already boiled out on to the platform. Being a graduate student, I was under no urgent deadlines. I sat back and read my book. With only the prospect of getting into yet another experiment at the lab in University College London, a quiet read in an empty railway carriage was appealing. I would have plenty of warning before the train would leave again and so I got lost in my novel.

“What are you doing?”

I looked up to find a rather perturbed-looking policeman of about my age.

“Reading” was my sheepish response.

Without further ado, he instructed me to go with him, “now!”

Scrambling 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 platform’s gate onto the deserted station lobby, 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 main doors were open and we boldly marched through into the sunshine. We 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. Large areas of the plate glass side to Euston Station came crashing to the ground!

We stared at the mess for a couple of seconds. We then stared at each other. Both of us were probably thinking the same thing. Less than a minute before we had been walking across the concourse and now it was 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 10 minutes later.

That evening, when arriving home I told Rhiain I had been close to an IRA bombing in Euston Station.

She looked at me for a few moments then asked, “Are you all right?”

“I’m not injured,” I reassured her.

“Yes! But are you all right?”

“I assure you, I am absolutely Fine!”

Forty years later, in 2013, I related my story to two impressionable students. We were working 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 10th September 1973.

To my surprise they informed me there had been two bombs that morning. 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 bombs that day and was ignorant of people being hurt.

Perhaps I had not been quite so ‘Fine’ after all.

6 comments

  1. Jazz

    Something doesn’t ring quite true here: there’s a bomb scare in a large London train station yet only one bobby goes investigating.
    He locates one man sitting in an otherwise totally empty train.
    They leave the station just before a bomb goes off, but the man is free to walk away…no questions asked?

  2. DebiG

    Remember Jazz, this was 1973…quite a different world than we live in today. I quite enjoyed vicariously, experiencing the situation and felt the confusion and curiosity the writer must have felt, at the time. Personally, I would like to hear more from this author.

  3. Jazz

    Debi,
    What exactly is the point your trying to make by telling me that things were different in 1973..? Different good, or different bad..?
    But here are the facts: in 1973 The IRA were terrorizing the British population, particularly, Londoners by blowing up cars, buildings, the railways and the underground. Nobody was safe. Who were the suspects? ….Most certainly a guy sitting on an empty train.

  4. Michael Joll

    If this is a personal reminiscence, then I have to accept it as factual. I left England for Canada in March, 1973, and IRA bomb scares were not common, but not unknown back then. As you say, the police response seems overly casual, even if this is a factual account.

    If this is fiction (and even if it is not) there is a lack of build up to the main plot, no indication of consternation on the part of the story teller, no tension or real conflict. If this is fiction, there could have been so much more.

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