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Caring on the Home Front - Volunteer memories from World War Two

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Evelyn Bristor

A life of their own underground

mary01Evelyn Bristor provided first aid services in the most legendary of air raid shelters: the London Underground. With other staff, she slept on the platform, supervised the nightly arrival of ‘food trains’, and calmed people as the bombs fell. Evelyn witnessed Londoners creating a life of their own underground.

Any special memories?

evelyn2” The Ministry of Health used to come down. They used to give inoculations against diphtheria and that sort of thing to people, and spray throats and so on. I always remember, they were going to do the children one particular time, and the wind got round, and when we came to the children in Oxford Street, we couldn’t find any children! They had got in the trains and gone for a ride on the trains to avoid it.

The nurses were sent round to the other near stations to round up all the children, did a Pied Piper sort of act, to bring the children back for their inoculations.

evelyn3They began to really make a life of their own underground. Some of the stations even had their own newspapers. I believe Swiss Cottage [did]. They called it `The Swiss Cottage’ or something.

They had a food train that came around about 10 o’clock, a refreshment train:
big urns of tea and milk and all the rest of it, and people could buy sandwiches and sausage rolls and buns and all sorts of things. The people looked forward to that, they loved it. “


Running first aid posts on the London Underground was just one of the ways in which the British Red Cross and St. John Ambulance helped during air raids. Before the war, the government had set up a Civil Defence service to help cope with the effects of enemy bombing. Over 90,000 St. John Ambulance and British Red Cross members joined, and the Joint War Organisation helped in many other ways. Find out about how the Joint War Organisation worked with the Civil Defence


The British government initially tried to ban Londoners from sheltering in Underground stations. However by the end of the war nearly 63 million people had sheltered in 79 Underground stations. Tube stations did not offer complete protection and sixty people sheltering in Balham station in 1940 were killed after it received a direct hit. Find out more about Air Raid Shelters.

Londoners spend the night at Elephant & Castle