Senate House and the Blitz

Senate House Library damage after the Blitz

The third Minster for Information, Duff Cooper, recorded that Bloomsbury suffered severely in the Blitz in the autumn of 1940, writing

‘The Ministry of Information was hit, I think, nine times, but it was a robust modern building and remained upright.’

However, the University Librarian recorded that the Theses Room in the south wing of the tower was completely destroyed by a bomb that impacted both the sixth and seventh floors of the building. While the University’s formal claim wrote that ‘the structural damage is fairly small’, Senate House and the Institute of Education were hit at least five times. Holden estimated repair costs at £50,995 in 1941 – the equivalent of £2,571,031.44 today.

After the bombings of 7-8 November 1940

Duff Cooper’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary Harold Nicolson sent an account of his night at Senate House to his wife Vita Sackville West, writing

“…So I sat drafting away as if I were back in the Foreign Office twenty years ago. Then I got to bed and curled up on my rubber mattresses and went fast asleep. Splaaassh! Craash! Tinkle! Tinkle! Oh, I was not longer in my bed but on the floor. Charles Peake burst in. ‘Art you alright, Harold?’ ‘Yes’, I said. ‘We’ve had another direct hit: a bad one this time.’ Well, up I got,… The passage outside was filled with a red fog which was just dust. There were air-raid wardens rushing about in steel helmets. And would you believe it? We really had been struck on the boko by the Luftwaffe. …A bomb had hit us on the shoulder. It had broken through one floor and exploded on the floor below. It had done in the University library. Our windows on the courtyard side have been twisted out into shreds. The courtyard is full of masonry. But not a single soul even scratched. It was all great fun…”