A sign of the times

BY RICHARD MADDOX

SUPRISINGLY FOR SOME, Imperial War Museums’ Churchill War Rooms and Museum (CWR) is not the only reminder of the Westminster’s Second World War history.

Not far from the Palace of Westminster (which had at least one pillbox – long since gone – built into the surrounding wall at the north end of Westminster Bridge Road) is Lord North Street.

It’s a quiet street of Georgian three and four bedroomed terrace houses averaging around £4,000,000 each and a favourite des-res of many politicians – including Sir Harold Wilson (who allegedly believed that certain elements of the Security Services had the place bugged and were ready to instigate a coup d’état with factions of the Armed Services) Antony Eden, and disgraced MP Johnathan Aitken – and others wanting or needing to live quietly in central London.

War-time Home Secretary Lord John Anderson (after whom the Anderson air raid shelter is named) also lived there and coincidentally the street has a number of signs indicating that there were public shelters converted from the cellars of some of houses on the street.

‘Public shelters in vaults under pavement in this street’. An example of an air raid shelter notice on a wall in Lord North Street, Westminster, London. Image: © R Maddox 2017

For many years after the war the white ‘S’ on a black background was a common sight on walls all over the UK. Image: © R Maddox 2017

 

History doesn’t recall if house holders were ever woken by strangers wanting shelter from the Luftwaffe – or indeed any conversation that unfolded in the late blacked-out gloom.

Also living there was Brendan Bracken, owner of the Financial Times and a friend and confidant of Winston Churchill.

Oh… and in nearby Smith Square lived Sir Oswald Mosley MP with his wife Diana (nee Mitford).

The ex-Conservative Member of Parliament, ex-Labour MP and founder of the British Union of Fascists was interned by Churchill under the Defence Regulation 18B (which allowed for the internment of suspected Nazi sympathisers) shortly after Churchill came to power. Mosely and his family were released to house arrest in 1943 on medical grounds.

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