Authors: John Mannion
John Mannion served a total of five years in the Police Service and seventeen years in the UK Armed Forces. Much of his military service was in a joint service, multinational environment, both in the UK and overseas. He was attached to the Intelligence Community for six years. An enthusiastic traveler, he is married with one daughter and one son.
This book is dedicated to the men and women of the Armed Forces, the Law Enforcement community and the Intelligence and Security Services.
A donation will be made, from royalties received by the author, to the UK Armed Forces Charity ‘Help for Heroes’.
The UK is under sustained attack from Islamic extremists. Jihadists bomb the London underground network; bomb a London nightclub; hold the nation hostage by attacking its nuclear power generating facilities, then unleash wholesale slaughter onto the streets of Oxford. Individuals and the nation’s security forces are left to deal with the consequences.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are entirely fictitious and any similarity between them and actual characters or events is entirely coincidental.
With many thanks to Terri, Lara, Paul, Matt and Anna.
‘Civilisation is face to face with militant Mohammedanism. When we reflect on the moral and material forces arrayed, there need be no fear of the ultimate issue, but the longer the policy of half measures is adhered to, the more distant the end of the struggle will be.’
Winston Churchill, 1897
1905, Monday December 6
The London Underground train departed Regent’s Park Underground Station and was gathering speed on its way to Oxford Circus. Then a flash. Bright orange. An almighty bang. Suddenly, all was still. All was black.
The blast from the explosion sent forth a multitude of ball bearings. Steel balls, like several hundred bullets in a single moment, seared into flesh causing numerous horrific injuries to many of the passengers – those not killed outright – who were crowded into the first carriage of the London Underground train.
Glass, body parts and other objects, which had moments earlier been part of the structure of the train, or worn or carried by its passengers, were sent flying with great force and speed through the metal tube structure. A large hole in the floor of the carriage marked the seat of the explosion. The carriage wall had been torn open. Glass and metal had been thrown out by the force of the blast hitting the tunnel wall before flying back into the torn carriage and its hapless occupants. The bomber and twelve innocent souls died instantly in that narrow dark tunnel.
A moment of stunned silence. People were rooted to the spot. The survivors strained, listening for any sound in the total darkness that enveloped them. Coming to terms with the unimaginable horror that had come into their lives. Their breath momentarily taken away by the force of the blast. Many had felt objects clipping them in the darkness. Trying to stay calm.
Then there was screaming, moans from the injured, sobs from shock and incomprehension which broke the tomb-like silence. There was choking. Lots of choking. Survivors trying to breathe as the carriage filled with thick black dust. Some survivors would later describe it as black, acrid oily smoke. A sense of panic in individuals as they struggled to breathe. Battling to remain calm. The smell of smoke. Wondering how, and if, they were going to get out or if they were going to suffocate or burn alive.
With the help of the emergency lighting, the survivors could comprehend a little of their situation; the carnage that was all around. Then some relief – air started to pour into the carriage through the broken windows. The artificial light captured a horrific scene. Shattered windows. Charred and mangled metal. Twisted and torn white-faced bodies – some alive, some dead. Some the light could not identify either way. There was blood everywhere. Dust in the air was caught in the light like dancing insects, making the whole scene appear like some horrific nightmare. The shock and disbelief on the faces of the survivors. The dishevelled, bloody appearance of all. The look of pain on the faces of the injured. All was picked out in the dim artificial light.
Some of the passengers cautiously stood up, checking themselves over apprehensively. They started to organise themselves, look for a way out of the wreckage, assist fellow passengers who had sustained more serious injuries, and comfort those who were dying. Some died quickly from injuries to their lungs, diaphragm and ribcage. Many of the injured and dead were horribly mutilated, suffering multiple injuries. Standing a few inches to the left or right had meant the difference between life and death.
Sergeant Dave Price, aged 38, a seasoned veteran with fifteen years service in the British Transport Police, was one of the survivors of the carnage. He had been travelling on the train as a passenger. During his time with the Transport Police he had attended many tragic and horrific incidents.
He stood up and surveyed the scene around him then cleared his throat. Maintaining a calm and steady tone in his voice, he announced:
‘Everybody, listen in. I am a Police Officer. Please everyone stay calm. I need a few minutes to assess the situation; to ensure your safety.’
On hearing this voice of authority there was a moment of tangible relief among the survivors, but then the questions began.
‘Is help on the way?’
‘Do you think anyone knows what has happened down here?’
‘Is there any danger of fire?’
In reply to these questions, Dave could only respond:
‘Everything will be OK. Help is on its way. Now please stay calm. Those of you who aren’t injured please assist, where possible, those less fortunate. I am going to assess our situation.’
With that Dave cautiously made his way forward in the carriage, stepping over bodies and debris in the dim light. He stood at the hole in the wall of the carriage and carefully, gripping the edges of the torn metal, looked out of the shattered shell into the darkness. He couldn’t be absolutely sure if the power was off but rationalised that emergency procedures would have been activated so was reasonably confident that it would be. Cautiously stepping down from the carriage onto the tunnel floor, he made his way to the front of the train. Turning round he looked back at the wreckage of the crowded underground train in the dim light. The horror of the scene left him transfixed for a moment. He pulled himself out of this state of shock and made his way back into the carriage. Once more he paused to take stock of the scene around him. Dave knew he could not assess the situation in the remaining, equally crowded carriages, nor provide significant assistance to the people in them. His gut instinct was to stay put and tend to the injured until help arrived. However he was aware that some of the uninjured or walking wounded were less than comfortable in their present claustrophobic surroundings and that this would be equally true further down the train. He felt that, even if he could prevent people from decamping from the first carriage, people in the other carriages would almost certainly start to leave the crippled train. Dave was only too aware of the danger these passengers could be placing themselves in.
‘OK everyone, please listen. I strongly advise that you should all remain on board until the rescue teams arrive, which will be soon. However, I am aware that passengers in other carriages may decide not to wait for help and may well decide to make their own way to safety. I am going to make my way down the tunnel and, in an attempt to alleviate some of the danger, escort those who are determined to leave the train back to Regent’s Park underground station. I would ask you all to remain here, to tend the wounded and await the arrival of the rescue teams. However, those of you who insist on leaving may accompany me.’
Dave paused. There were groans from the wounded, mixed in with chatter and shouts of, ‘I want to get out of here!’
Dave felt concern for the injured he was about to leave behind but, equally, he felt a responsibility for the others who were feeling serious discomfort and a growing claustrophobia in the shattered shell of the train. ‘OK. I am going to leave now and see if I can offer assistance to other passengers on the train and lead them to safety where necessary.
‘I will ensure help is with those of you who remain as soon as possible. I will return with the rescue team.’
With that Dave and the uninjured and walking wounded who could bear the situation no more, slowly, carefully, started to leave the crippled train. Through jagged metal they decamped into the dimly lit tunnel, following in Dave’s footsteps between the train wreck and the wall of the tunnel. They made their way, encountering passengers from the other carriages who had decided to make their own way to safety. As he proceeded down the length of the train, Dave imparted the same advice he had minutes before given the passengers in the first carriage. Still more survivors joined him in the tunnel. They now walked, in the semi-darkness, in single file between the tracks, praying that the electricity supply had been shut off and hoping that no other train would come hurtling down the track.
The alarm was raised by underground staff and members of the public almost simultaneously, at Scotland Yard, the location of the Metropolitan Police Control Centre and in the control rooms of London Transport, the British Transport Police, London Fire Brigade and London Ambulance Service. The circumstances, nature and extent of the incident were as yet unclear. Calls coming in from the public were desperate and sometimes confused, but all were reporting loud bangs and clouds of thick black smoke billowing out of the tunnel at Regent’s Park Underground Station.
Fire, Police and Ambulance Services immediately despatched manpower and equipment to the station. All London hospitals were put on alert to receive an unknown number of casualties. Major Incident emergency medical teams began deployment to the scene of the incident.
‘Gold Command’ was established at the Scotland Yard Control Centre. From here all emergency service operations would be directed and controlled. British Transport Police mobile units were the first of the emergency services to arrive at Regent’s Park Underground Station. These officers, together with colleagues from the Metropolitan Police, set up a forward command post outside the entrance to the underground station on the busy Marylebone Road, which was now being closed off to traffic. The Forward Command Post would co-ordinate the rescue effort of the emergency services at the scene, all of whom were now preparing to mount a rescue operation into the darkness.
It was thirty minutes before the advance rescue team, made up of police, fire and ambulance crews, supported by doctors and nurses from various London hospitals and London Underground staff, started to make its way along the dark, damp tunnel. The rescuers had to suppress concerns for their own safety. This advance party, led by Inspector Alistair Thompson of the British Transport Police, bore a tremendous responsibility. Upon them lay not only the safety and initial treatment of the passengers. It was also their responsibility to assess the situation and request the appropriate resources which would be necessary at the scene of the incident. No sooner had the rescuers entered the tunnel than they heard voices; at first faint and muffled, gradually growing louder. Then ahead of them, emerging out of the darkness, at first as ghostly shadows, came a group of survivors.
Shortly after leaving the train wreck, although it felt longer, the survivors saw the flashes of torchlight up ahead and were soon in the company of the rescue party. Among the dishevelled survivors, most suffering physical injuries and shock, there was a sense of relief at seeing this first sign of safety. Some burst into tears, some reached out to members of the rescue party as much for reassurance as for physical assistance. Others just stared ahead with vacant looks on their faces. A few of the rescuers accompanied the survivors for the remaining part of their trek back to Regent’s Park Station, the nearest place of safety. The remaining members of the rescue party, accompanied by Dave Price, who remained good to his word, resumed their journey down the tunnel towards the seat of the disaster.