WWII Westminster

During the course of World War II, the Palace of Westminster was hit by German bombs on 14 separate occasions. The worst raid took place on the night of 10 May 1941, when the palace took at least 12 hits and three people were killed. An incendiary bomb struck the chamber of the House of Commons and set it on fire, while another set the roof of Westminster Hall alight. The firefighters could not save both and so the decision was taken to rescue the historically important hall. In this they were successful, but the abandoned Commons Chamber was completely gutted, as was the Members’ Lobby. A bomb also struck the Lords Chamber, but luckily it went through the floor without exploding. The Elizabeth Tower (which houses Big Ben) was hit by a small bomb or shell just below the roof line and it suffered much damage as a result. All the glass in the south dial was blown out, but the hands and bells were not affected – amazingly, despite the explosion, the clock continued to keep time accurately. The Commons Chamber was rebuilt after the war by the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. The reconstruction was in a simplified version of the old chamber’s style, and it is Scott’s chamber – not Augustus Pugin’s – that we know today.