Cabbie’s Curios: The Waterloo Siren

As the clip below demonstrates, the eerie, banshee-like howl of the air-raid siren was one of the most defining sounds of WWII.

Although the conflict ended in 1945, the UK maintained a fully working network of these chilling devices right up until 1992- primarily thanks to the Cold War.

Most air-raid sirens have now vanished from the streets… but an intriguing example can still be spotted in central London; perched high up on one of the numerous bridges which ferry slowly rumbling commuter trains past Waterloo Station.

Location of the siren- which sits on a railway bridge spanning Waterloo Road, just outside the mainline station (image: Google)

Location of the siren- which sits on a railway bridge spanning Waterloo Road, just outside the mainline station (image: Google)

Information on this siren is pretty much non-existent.

Waterlo Siren

Personally speaking, I’m inclined to believe that this particular example is post-WWII; installed to warn unfortunate Londoners of flooding (a grave threat before the Thames Barrier opened in 1984) or, worse still, an impending Soviet nuclear attack.

Perhaps though this siren isn’t a relic at all… on closer examination, wires can be seen trailing from the device… and the alarm still appears to be plugged in.

Siren Wires

Let’s hope it never gets the chance to be cranked out of retirement…

Waterloo Siren

8 responses

  1. Many people still listen to the sound of the air-raid siren with an involuntary shudder. The antidote is to play the all-clear siren, which sounded on a single, higher note and had an almost triumphant sound to it.

    Many people will also remember the fraught days of the Cuban Missile Crisis which brought us to the edge of the cliff and when even a car back-firing made everyone jump. Happily, the sirens remained silent then. If they had sounded, there would have been nowhere for people to go…

    1. Indeed…. The lunacy of the brinksmanship from that period never ceases to amaze me.

  2. […] Cabbie’s Curios: The Waterloo Siren. […]

  3. […] took to the streets of Shepherds Bush to ask people what they’d do in the event of hearing sirens sound the Four Minute Warning; the famous time in which it was estimated the public would be warned of an incoming nuclear […]

  4. John Marcato (@MikeAndrews8513) | Reply

    Great website! I always wondered if there is any WW2 air raid siren somewhere still in London.

    1. It’s a good question, John…. to my knowledge there are not, but you never know!

  5. I have spotted this from the train. They still use these sirens in parts of the country to warn of flooding – essential if people need to be woken up in the middle of the night I guess. Here’s a youtube video of Todmorden’s siren going off. Bloody eerie, but hard to sleep through it.

    1. That’s an incredible video- and terrifying too! Never thought I’d hear a siren so clear in modern Britain….

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