Criminals of the Blitz

Joshua Levine reveals how the German bombing of British cities in the Second World War created new opportunities for lawlessness...

A Black Market camera seller

Wally Thompson was a hardworking thief who always looked to exploit a situation. During a heavy air raid in 1941, he drove a stolen lorry into a narrow street in London Bridge. An air raid precaution (ARP) member, Thompson was wearing his uniform; it allowed him to move around London freely and unsuspected. Alongside him in the lorry were the members of his gang – Batesy, Bob and ‘Spider’.

The gang’s plan was to break into a warehouse, pick up a safe from the office and drive it away. As anti-aircraft fire raged and bombers droned, Batesy jumped out and opened the warehouse gates with a cloned key. Spider – an experienced burglar – ran forward and forced a window, before jemmying the main door open from the inside. Within moments, all four men were inside, manhandling the safe out to the lorry. But as they reached the door, a bomb landed outside.

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