🚇 Remembering the Tragedy: The Balham Tube Station Disaster 🚇

On 14 October 1940 at 8.02pm a 1400 kilo semi armour piercing bomb penetrated 32 feet underground and exploded just above the cross passage between the two platforms in Balham station, while above ground a number 88 bus, travelling in blackout conditions, plunged into the crater created. The dramatic spectacle was newsworthy and pictures circulated around the world some of which can be viewed here.

On the fateful night of October 14, 1940, Balham Tube station in London became the site of a devastating disaster that forever left its mark on the city’s history. As World War II raged on, the city’s residents sought refuge in the Underground network, using the stations as shelters from the relentless bombings. However, that night, tragedy struck Balham, highlighting the immense challenges faced by civilians during wartime.

As bombs fell above ground, a direct hit on a nearby house caused a catastrophic collapse, leading to the collapse of the road surface and the subsequent penetration of the station’s roof. In a matter of moments, chaos and panic ensued as the unsuspecting shelterers found themselves trapped amidst the rubble and darkness below ground.

The disaster claimed the lives of over 60 people and left countless others injured, traumatised, and forever scarred by the events of that night. Rescue efforts were launched immediately, with brave individuals risking their lives to save survivors and recover the bodies of those who perished. The heroic acts of the emergency services and volunteers demonstrated the resilience and unity of the community in the face of unimaginable tragedy.

The Balham Tube station disaster highlighted the harsh realities of war and the vulnerability of civilian populations during times of conflict. It served as a stark reminder of the sacrifices made by ordinary people, seeking shelter and safety in the Underground network while facing the relentless threat of bombings.

Today, a memorial stands at Balham Tube station, serving as a poignant reminder of the lives lost and the resilience of the community. It is a place of remembrance, where visitors can pay their respects and reflect on the tragic events that unfolded on that fateful night.

The disaster at Balham Tube station remains a significant chapter in London’s history, a somber reminder of the profound impact of war on civilian life. It serves as a testament to the strength and resilience of the people, and the importance of commemorating those who lost their lives in the pursuit of safety and peace.

Let us remember the victims of the Balham Tube station disaster, honor their memory, and strive to build a world where tragedies like these become a thing of the past.


Legends say that this Art Deco apartment building almost became Hitler’s British headquarters.

Atlas Obscura have written another article including the myth that Hitler wanted Du Cane Court as his UK HQ.

Excerpt: Du Cane Court is a strikingly beautiful Art Deco apartment building in Balham, South London. It opened in 1937 with 676 apartments, making it one of the largest blocks of flats to be found anywhere in Europe. With its distinctive curves and Art Deco styling, Du Cane Court was the height of modernity. Its sleek lobby, marbled pillar entryway, and top floor social club, with a bar and restaurant on the 7th floor, made it a widely popular home for many actors and music hall stars in the 1930s.

Read more directly on Atlas Obscura.

There is no credible historical evidence to suggest that Adolf Hitler intended to set up his command headquarters in the south London suburb of Balham or anywhere else in London. During World War II, Hitler’s headquarters were primarily based in Germany, with several locations serving as his command centers, such as the Wolf’s Lair in Poland and the Berghof in Bavaria.

It’s important to exercise caution with regards to historical claims or rumors without reliable sources. While there were bombing campaigns conducted by Nazi Germany against London during the war, there is no documented evidence to support the notion that Hitler had specific plans to establish his command headquarters in Balham or any other location in London.

It’s crucial to rely on well-documented historical sources and verified information when discussing significant events and historical figures.

A History of Du Cane Court: Land, Architecture, People and Politics

A synopsis of the book

Du Cane Court is a popular art deco block of flats in Balham, one which, has become known both near and far. It has featured in property programmes and crime dramas on television and has had a variety of residents and visitors.
To compile the book, the author visited various libraries, accessed the Register of Electors, examined the council records, and interviewed long-term residents – including several who arrived in ‘the Court’ before or during the war, and even one who provided an insight into what it was like to grow up there in the 1950s. Furthermore, a whole host of articles and books were referenced, which served to authenticate the narrative. Time has even been spent studying the entire microfiche history of the company responsible for the block, the Central London Property Trust; and in recording an intimate portrait of the architect himself, Mr George Kay Green, through conversations with his affable son, Charles, who has since passed away.

The building was erected between 1935 and 1938, and has pleasing curves and metal window-frames, similar to those designed by Walter Crittall to replace the wooden sash variety, – although the old frames are now being slowly replaced. The design also included a stylish restaurant, a bar, and a club with extensive facilities. Originally, there were also plans for squash courts and a children’s crèche area, as well as roof gardens. Indeed, people remember sunbathing on the roof. The building has changed a lot over the years, but it still has a beautiful foyer and attractive Japanese gardens, landscaped by Seyemon Kusumoto; and, at the time of its completion, it had the distinction of being probably the largest block of privately-owned flats under one roof in Europe. All of the companies involved in its construction were researched for the book, and an account is given as to how this edifice – encompassing around 676 flats – reflected a period of architectural history.

There are many famous individuals who were reputedly there – actresses Margaret Rutherford, Elizabeth Sellars and Hermione Gingold; comedians Tommy Trinder, Derek Roy, and Richard Hearne alias ‘Mr Pastry’; band leaders Harry Roy and Harry Leader, and also most of the Tiller Girls; cricketer Andy Sandham, and table-tennis ace, Ernest Bubley. Today, ‘the Court’ numbers Arthur Smith and Christopher Luscombe amongst its theatrical celebrities – both of whom were interviewed at length.

The history documents how the building derived its name, tracing the history of a family of Huguenots called the Du Canes, who left France and became successful landowners in England; and readers will also discover what was on the estate before the arrival of Du Cane Court. This included several buildings. Of special interest was a doctor’s family home, complete with extensive grounds containing tennis courts. Indeed, one of the doctor’s descendents vividly describes a bygone way of life.

There are some wonderful legends about Du Cane Court. It is said, for instance, that Hitler intended to use it for his headquarters when he invaded Britain; and that the German Luftwaffe may have found it helpful as a navigational aid – for, in spite of its size, the estate appears to have survived World War 11 completely unscathed. It is also rumoured that the building was once a hotbed of spies.

In 1971 the Tenants’ Association was founded, and the ensuing decades saw a mixture of noble aspirations and conflicts of interest take root within it. There are endearing stories of community spirit; and some sad exceptions, where residents cannot stomach each other’s company or each other’s noise. There have been battles with the landlords, or their representative managers, on account of the considerable service charge expenses – and the disturbing flat conversions which they have been responsible for. Certain disputes have even reached the courtroom.

Other events have included what was, perhaps, the first invasion of pharaoh ants in a London block of flats; and a dramatic boiler explosion in the basement, from which a visiting engineer sustained horrific injuries, even though the rest of the building was unaffected.
‘The Court’ and its people continue to evolve. The faces at the desk have changed over the years; and our celebrated resident, Arthur Smith, has opened the Balham festival on at least two occasions. This history shows how the life within these walls relates to that of the community at large.
There are innumerable illustrations: photographs of famous residents, pictures of the building taken recently and in the 1930s, original architectural plans, and interesting letters. A few cartoons have even been drawn to highlight the comical side of life at Du Cane Court. And, if they are not enough to raise a smile, the book has various quaint stories of eccentrics and elderly people making their mark.

Lastly, there are the pros and cons of attempting to gain the freehold, and of getting the building listed; and an assessment of what the future may hold, and of the measures which might be taken to further improve an environment which is already, most of the time at least, a pleasant place to call your home.
Available to purchase in paperback or download to an iPad or a Kindle e-reader, the e-book is also available on  Amazon.

A History of Du Cane Court: Land, Architecture, People and Politics Paperback – 10 May 2008

A book is available on an imposing ‘art deco’ building in Balham, Wandsworth, – which was alleged to be the largest block of privately owned flats under one roof in Europe when it was built. The book has a colourful cover composed of variegated ‘windows’ into the life and characters of the estate. It is 279 pages long, and includes 104 pages of black and white illustrations.
Buy it on Amazon, in Balham Library or any bookstore (by quoting ISBN 978095416751-6). The author may be contacted  at [email protected]
Download to an iPad or a Kindle e-reader, the e-book is also available on  Amazon.