Check Out These Incredible Images Of Wartime London – Released By TfL
Coaches converted into ambulances. Crowds of Londoners sleeping all the way up escalators. Children’s Christmas parties thrown in the depths of Holborn station.
This was the London of the second world war — and a virtual exhibition from TfL has the pictures to tell these remarkable stories.
TfL’s corporate archive has been curated with hundreds of images and newspaper clippings, documenting the role of its predecessor — the London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB) — at a time when the country was at war.
The pivoting of transport services played a major role in the war effort; from turning tube stations into bomb shelters and factories, to converting hundreds of Green Line coaches into ambulances.
LPTB staff showed great flexibility with the roles they played too; many women turned their hand to manufacturing, working in places like the Handley Page “Halifax” factories in Chiswick and White City, and the Plessey factory in Redbridge.
Other LPTB workers took on roles as firefighters, nurses and catering staff — some serving hot tea and pies from Tube Refreshments Specials to keep morale up.
Famously, Londoners sought shelter in London Underground stations, and photos in the collection depict uncomfortable scenes of people packed in along platforms and up escalators. A 1924 Government directive had ruled out stations being used as shelters in the event of air raids, but many Londoners just bought tube tickets, then refused to leave.
In one image in the collection, sheltering children are shown giving a thumbs-up to the camera, in a moment of pure blitz spirit. While many thousands of London children were evacuated on public transport early on, some stayed behind and others actually returned while the war was still raging — enjoying Christmas parties held in Underground stations.
Tamara Thornhill, Corporate Archivist at TfL said:
We are proud of our colleagues whose work helped Britains war effort and ultimately helped save lives. This collection features never seen before images from the second world war and information about the people who helped the London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB), who went to fight on the front lines and then returned to their day jobs once the war was over.