Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Sunday (Maroochydore, Australia)

Flying Bus Defies Tower Bridge; Iconic London Structure Has Some Fascinating Tales to Tell, as David Ellis Discovers on a Recent Trip

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Sunday (Maroochydore, Australia)

Flying Bus Defies Tower Bridge; Iconic London Structure Has Some Fascinating Tales to Tell, as David Ellis Discovers on a Recent Trip

Article excerpt

AS EVENING began falling across London on December 30, 1952, bus driver Albert Gunter must have wondered if he'd lapsed into a nightmare as he started driving his Number 78 bus across Tower Bridge straddling the River Thames.

For the centre of the bridge comprises two 30m-long hinged bascules (or leaves) that open upwards at over 80 degrees to allow ships to pass through.

To his horror, the one he was on was rising at an increasingly sickening angle right under his bus and its 20 passengers.

Making a split-second decision, Albert dropped two gears and gunned the engine of the cumbersome double-decker as fast as it would go - miraculously leaping the vehicle forward from the bascule, and somehow "flying" it through mid-air to drop, deafeningly but still upright, almost two metres down on to the opposite leaf that had not yet begun to rise.

His conductor suffered a broken leg, 12 passengers received minor injuries, and Albert himself was given a 10-pound reward for his heroics (about $450 in today's money) a[degrees] with a subsequent inquiry finding the bascule had been raised due to a mix-up between staff.

There've been plenty of other mix-ups over the years with the timing of Tower Bridge's openings, the most bizarre involving a motorcade of US President Bill Clinton in May, 1997.

The President and British Prime Minister Tony Blair had dined at a restaurant on the banks of the Thames that day, and were warned that Tower Bridge, which they needed to cross to get back into Central London, had been booked to open in the early afternoon for a tourist sailing barge, the Gladys, to pass through.

But the President was late leaving the restaurant. His limousine and lead security vehicles were almost across and, to the horror of his tailing security agents, the two bascules began rising to allow the Gladys through on time.

Screeching to a stop, the tailing secret agents watched unbelievably as their President disappeared unprotected into the chaos of London traffic on the other side of the river.

When asked why they'd cut the motorcade in two, bridge staff said they had simply opened the bridge on schedule, and as for the late-arriving motorcade, "when we'd tried to contact the American Embassy, they wouldn't answer the phone". …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.