TALES OF THE VAULTS: A HISTORY - PART 3

Written by Emma

PART 3 - THE TWO WORLD WARS

When the First World War broke out, the British rail stations were used to send thousands of soldiers to war, and, as the largest of them all, Waterloo station took part in that exodus. Did all the soldiers that we see today in the archived photographs, kissing their families goodbye, return? For most, Waterloo was probably their final vision of their homeland. Once again, the station became the symbol of a journey to death.

In 1919, an arch was built by the architect James Robb Scott and sculptor Charles Whiffen to commemorate the end of the war. It can still be seen at the entrance of the station today, and is now on the Grade II heritage list.

Waterloo station also became one of the main strategic targets during the Blitz. On the 10th of May 1941, a night that would change the face of the capital forever, London's landmark buildings faced an unexpected and violent assault. The attack was so strong that 1,486 inhabitants perished. The station was hit. A witness recollects:

"At Waterloo Station, the asphalt on the platform was soft and spongy from the heat of the fire in the 23 acres of vault underneath"

Despite this, the station remained open to those seeking shelter during the bombing until March 1943, when it closed permanently due to difficulties in clearing the platforms from flood-door damages. At the end of the war, several commemorative plaques were added to the arch, as a tribute to the men who gave their lives to restore peace.