Ernest Gidden: a wartime Naval officer who defused a bomb in central London


Explore – how bridges stand up and can be demolished

Discuss – what it would have been like to live through the air raids in London

Discover – that ordinary people have the capacity for extraordinary courage


Subject Areas

History – WWII and the bombing of London

Science – Bridge design, construction materials, effects of explosive force

Geography – Role of the Thames bridges in social and economic development of London

Citizenship – Understanding moral responsibility, making choices


Possible Topics

• Living in Hampstead during the Blitz (see Hampstead at War, from the War Heroes handout)

• History of the George Cross/ Medal – awards for courage

• The work of the armed services overseas, particularly in disabling mines in Iraq/ Afghanistan

• History of the Hungerford Bridges (the first one, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, opened in 1845)


Suggested Activities

• Write about the most courageous thing you have seen or done yourself.

• In teams, design and build a bridge (using pins and drinking straws) with a span of 30 cm and a deck height of 7cm that is strong enough to carry a 100 gram load and is attractive to look at.


Interesting Fact

Gidden survived the war and was promoted to Lieutenant-Commander before it ended. His medals were exhibited by his son Michael on the Antiques Roadshow in Feb 2003. The expert valued them at £16,000.


The Hungerford Bridge

The first Hungerford Bridge, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, opened in 1845 as a suspension footbridge. It was named after the then Hungerford Market, because it went from the south bank of the river to the market on the north bank of the Thames.

In 1859 the original bridge and the market were bought by the railway company extending the South Eastern Railway into the new Charing Cross railway station. The railway company replaced the suspension bridge with a structure designed by Sir John Hawkshaw, comprising nine spans of wrought- iron lattice girders, which opened in 1864. It is one of only three bridges in London to combine pedestrian and railway use.



WW2: A day by day account –

Find a Grave project –

Lists of those who have been awarded the George Medal (during the 1940s) and George Cross


Further Resources

Burgh House, Hampstead has an exhibition of the History of Hampstead; this includes war time information and an aerial photo of where bombs were dropped in Hampstead and the surrounding area

Westminster City Archives: Bomb Map of Hungerford Bridge.

Imperial War Museum archives –


This page was last updated on December 2nd, 2020.


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