Today (July 7) in London History – The 2005 Terrorist Bombings

On July 7, 2005 – a day after the announcement that London’s bid for the 2012 Olympics had won – Al Quaeda exploded three bombs on the London Underground and a fourth bomb on a No. 30 bus at Tavistock Square. This Today in London History podcast remembers.  It introduces three Londoners who were there, who were bombed. These are their recollections.


That usual lead-in won’t do today.

I’m not going to preface what’s coming with that cheery, bracing, basically upbeat intro. It wouldn’t be right. Not going to do it.

It wouldn’t be right, I’m not going to do it because this one’s grim in the extreme. You might well not want to listen beyond this point. It’s somehow worse – a lot worse – because this one’s our London. It’s not something horrific that happened in the remote past – seven centuries ago – and thus somehow ameliorated (if that’s the word) or cushioned or buffered or muffled by time boundless and bare, like lone and levels sands stretching far away.

No, this is our time, our London. 

And it’s somehow made worse by coming up – it’s just the accident of the date – only a day or so after that Copenhagen shooting and even as news of the latest American horror show – Illinois this time – is pitching up. History can be an escape. But this isn’t.

Ok, let’s get it over with. On July 6, 2005 London was elated. Full of joy. It was announced that our bid for the 2012 Olympics had won.

Best of times.

24 hours later – worst of times. Less than 24 hours – it was bright and early the following morning. Rush-hour on July 7, 2005. Three bombs exploded on the Underground. A fourth bomb went off in a Number 30 bus at Tavistock Square. Terrible loss of life. 56 people. Many others badly injured. Al-Quaeda claimed responsibility.

And that’s enough arms-lengthing the story. Alice O’Keefe, Bernie Scranney and George Psarabakis – Londoners all three of them – were there. They weren’t passing by, they weren’t bystanders, they weren’t spectators – they were bombed. If what happened to them is at the end of a line I’m not sure there’s a fitting word to attach to this end of that line to pull those memories into our purview. The best I can come up with is the adjective raw. This is recent London history and it’s very raw. You’ve been warned.

Alice O’Keefe first. She was a 25year-old freelance journalist. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time – how glib those words are. She was on the Tube at King’s Cross. The bomb exploded in the carriage she was in. That obscenity happened to Alice O’Keefe and her fellow passengers. There’s no right way to introduce her. No right way to package her words, her memories. To call it a tale, a story, an account – to put it in any of those ways feels almost indecent. The best is silence:

[Here I read Alice O’Keefe’s account]

Bernie Scranney was caught in the Edgware Road blast.

[Here I read Bernie Scranney’s account.]

George Psarabakis was the driver of the No. 30 bus in Tavistock Place.

[Here I read George Psarabakis’ account.]

I’m not going to do the usual sign-off.

I am going to make a London recommendation. Completely unrelated to what happened on July 7, 2005. A really good fit with the Tuesday afternoon Bohemian Bloomsbury walk is to drift along up that way a couple of hours early – the walk starts at 2 pm from Holborn Tube – and have a pre-walk lunch at the Cafe Le Cordon Bleu in Pied Bull Yard just off Bloomsbury Square. It’s the cafe attached to the Cordon Bleu cookery school. As you’d expect – how could it be otherwise – the food is superb. As is the setting – Pied Bull Yard is delightful. And it’s very affordable. Will set you up perfectly for that superb walk. A superb walk in a setting that’s delightful. And at a price that’s very affordable. 


Signing off now. This has been the London Walks Today in London History podcast. From

See you tomorrow. 

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