Lloyd's and WWII
Just as it had been during WWI, Lloyd’s was deeply impacted by the events of the WWII.
According to Lloyd’s log books from the time, the first record of enemy air raid activity was on 24 August 1940. From then on, entries show that at least one warning was sounded daily until 2 December 1940, culminating with the heavy raid of 10 May 1941. During the time that the air raids were almost continuous, Lloyd’s fire fighters always had at least two watchers on the roof at night, to warn of any particularly severe bombing or danger to surrounding buildings. Fortunately, Lloyd’s itself was not directly damaged during the war.
The problems of air raid precautions were first considered by the Committee of Lloyd’s in 1938. The decision was made to reinforce all the corridors in the sub-basements - and a large part of the Royal Mail House basement next door - with heavy timbers and steel. In addition, a bomb-proof shelter was provided. A main shelter was also created in the sub-basement of Royal Mail House. Work on the shelters was only just completed when the war broke out. Had intensive bombing started on that first day, Lloyd’s would have been ready to meet the worst.
Lloyd's at night
Before the war, after the gates of Lloyd’s closed, the only sign of life at night consisted of a few clerks and printers producing the shipping intelligence. The war completely changed this. The Friends' Ambulance Unit, whose primary work was the relief of suffering among the civil population on the battlefields abroad, turned their attention to the relief of the poor people of London. They conceived the idea that use might be made at night of large city buildings by people from the East End and elsewhere, and Lloyd's was approached to lead this scheme. From October 1940 to May 1941, around 170 people were provided with permanent shelter from the bombing and the appalling conditions surrounding their homes.
Protecting the Dome
There were concerns around protecting the glass dome of the Underwriting Room from bombing raids. In anticipation, huge tarpaulins were made to fit the whole of its area so that work could continue below. The glass was also removed and replaced with ‘Windowlite’. The large quantities of small incendiary bombs and mines on parachutes led the Committee to adopt the suggestion of using old lift ropes to form a protective wire mesh canopy over the top of the lighting court. On top of this was fixed galvanized wire pig-netting. The effect was that of a spring mattress stretched across the dome. Apart from protection from lighter missiles, it was hoped the fuse of a heavier bomb might be detonated on contact with it and thus explode the bomb above the floor of the Room.
Evacuation to Pinewood Film Studios
Shortly before outbreak of war, the possibility of the City being severely bombed had to be considered. A Member of the Lloyd’s Committee suggested Pinewood Film Studios in Buckinghamshire. It was large enough to accommodate all Lloyd’s requirements and acceptable to the government which, by that time, had stressed the necessity of large businesses evacuating to within a specified range of London. It was therefore decided that Lloyd's Policy Signing Office and some other staff offices would be evacuated. On Friday 1 September 1939, a staff of nearly 500 - mostly women - were instructed to arrange to move over that weekend. As a result of this flexibility, business at Lloyd’s was able to continue much as normal.