The First Attempt To Blow Up Hammersmith Bridge.

Three times Irish Republicans have attempted to blow up Hammersmith Bridge. The first incident was in 1939 and there were to be two further attempts in 1996 and 2000 respectively and as we know, thankfully all failed.

Maurice Childs, a hairdresser from Chiswick, was walking across the bridge in the early hours of the morning when he happened to notice some smoke and sparks coming from a suitcase. He decided to open it and inside he found a bomb which he then threw into the river. There are two conflicting reports as to when the bomb actually exploded. Either it blew up as it entered the water and a 60-foot column of water drenched him or, he later heard it go off when he reached a phone booth nearby. Either way he was a very alert man and his bravery later earned him the MBE.

There was also a second bomb which went off and caused some of the girders on the west side of the bridge to collapse and shattered some windows in nearby houses. Eddie Connell and William Browne later received jail sentences of 20 and 10 years respectively for their involvement. The IRA’s so called S-Plan campaign around England continued into 1940 and amounted to around 300 explosions and resulted in seven deths and ninety six injuries.The special late edition of the ‘Daily Sketch’ dated 29th March, 1939 carried the following headline: ‘Hammersmith Bridge Damaged By Explosions This Morning’ and this report went up on the back page:

‘Two mystery explosions occurred at Hammersmith Bridge soon after 1am today. The centre of the bridge was damaged. One of the suspension chains was snapped. Special squad cars were immediately rushed to the scene and a cordon was thrown round nearby streets. Two men were later detained by the Police for questioning, one after a Flying Squad chase of a lorry. Streets near the bridge were littered with broken glass. All traffic across the bridge was stopped. Windows of surrounding houses were smashed. People ran into the streets in terror. People in the districts round the bridge were brought from their beds by the sound of the explosions.

A late worker on his way home, told how he saw two flashes light the darkness of the sky, followed by two “terrific bangs.” A car passing over the bridge was smashed by one of the links of the broken suspension chain. The driver was un-hurt. “I did not actually see the explosion,” he told the ‘Daily Sketch.’ “But I had to swerve to avoid hitting the bridge.” It is understood that the explosions were caused by bombs detonated by a car passing over a wire on the roadway approaching the bridge.’

Steve Russell