News agency offices in Fleet Street were evacuated after a “suspicious parcel” was seen in a parked car. The scare proved false.
The day of terror began with the discovery of a booby-trapped car outside Scotland Yard this morning.
Police sources said the bomb —which contained more than 150 lb. of gelignite — was believed to have been planted by IRA guerrilla.
The explosions coincided with a wave of bomb attacks in Ulster, where a referendum is being held to determine Northern Ireland’s future relationship with the Irish Republic.
After the Whitehall explosion, the fire brigade reported that at least 14 people had been injured, but more were believed trapped in parked cars.
But no one was injured in the Ministry of Agriculture, which took the brunt of the blast. The building had been evacuated shortly before the bomb went off.
Later, a second bomb was reported in Whitehall and the area was evacuated. It was a false alarm.
Panic followed the Old Bailey explosion in which scores of people were injured.
White-wigged barristers and court officials fled the building into streets more than six inches deep in water from broken water mains.
Immediately opposite the Old Bailey, the George Hotel was a gaping derelict shell.
Among the injured was Mr C. J. Cripi, QC, who was walking across the road when the explosion occurred.
Windows in the new court extensions were blown in by the force of the explosion.
Outside the court lay twisted wreck-ages of cars.
Thousands of civil servants were evacuated from the area that contains most of Britain’s main Government Departments, including the Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street.
The explosion echoed throughout the houses of Parliament, and an afternoon sitting was suspended for a time while Government Ministers consulted urgently with police.
It was also heard by Queen Elizabeth in residence at Buckingham Palace less than a mile away from the Whitehall blast.
AAP-Reuter correspondent Michael Hughes reported from Whitehall:
“I saw smouldering fragments from a dozen wrecked cars, and a carpet of broken glass littered the street.
“A policeman told me it was miraculous that only a dozen people appeared to be injured”.
But unlike the Old Bailey explosion, enough warning was given by the guerrillas to avert a heavy casualty toll.
Office watchman Barry Lock was eating lunch in a cafe near the Old Bailey.
Standing in a pool of blood and bleeding himself from his forehead, he told reporters: “I was blown right across the floor.
“I thought the building was coming down. It seemed like the war all over again.
“The next thing I remember I was seeing the cafe boss with a hole in his back. A girl who was walking outside was lying in the road — a vein was severed in her leg and her face and body were covered in blood.”
Associated Press secretary June Sears was lunching in a wine bar under railroad arches across the street from the courthouse.
“The explosion shook the bar to its foundations,” she said. “Dust was spiralling throughout the building and in the street.
“Near the Old Bailey I saw a car blown open and hundreds of windows smashed. Many women and girls were hysterical with shock and fright.”
It was the wort guerrilla attack in London since 1939, when an IRA sabotage campaign killed seven people and injured about 50 in a series of more than 200 bomb explosions in the capital and provincial cities.
The IRA also struck again just over a year ago, when they bombed an army barracks at Aldershot, killing seven people, including a Roman Catholic priest.
The bomb which exploded just off Whitehall today wrecked the facade of an army recruiting office and shattered windows in offices and shops for 100 yards around.