Dorothy's story

London bus.jpg

Resident Dorothy Sullivan from Ronald Buckingham Court in Rotherhithe, recalled a famous incident involving a London bus jumping across an opening Tower Bridge.

Dorothy lived in Bermondsey at the time and worked in the Minories. She was on a bus behind and saw the drama unfold.

London, December 30th 1952


Albert Gunter, driver of a double decker bus on route 78 from Shoreditch to Dulwich, was going about his daily business when while travelling over Tower Bridge he noticed the road was rising in front of his bus.

The bus was travelling across the bridge when the northern arm of the bridge began to rise.

Realising it was too late to brake as the bus might have slithered over the edge into the Thames, Gunter realised he had no option but to speed up, so put his foot down hard on the accelerator and jumped the gap to ensure his passengers were safe. Luckily the south side of the bridge was slower to lift which meant that the bus dropped from less of a height and miraculously remained upright.

Dorothy recalled her memories of that unusual journey.

“I remember it very well as everyone at work was talking about it and saying they were glad we were safe. I have retold this story many times to family and friends over the years.

“One day my son was in the West End of London and found this postcard (pictured) in a shop, and bought it for me to as he remembered me telling the story.”

Newspaper reports at the time tell of several injuries as people were thrown from their seats in the drop.

Fortunately out of the 20 passengers, 4 were treated for minor injuries and 10 taken to hospital including the driver and conductor, with one young lad suffering a fracture collarbone.

Although a ship had been scheduled to pass through the bridge, according to eye witnesses the traffic light had been green, signalling that it was safe for the bus to cross. The incident was put down to human error.

Albert Gunter.jpgConsidering that Tower Bridge had been raised over 300,000 times previously, it was amazing that more incidents like this didn’t occur.

Albert Gunter went on to become something of a minor celebrity and received awards for his speedy actions that day that saved so many lives. His workmates nicknamed him Parachute Gunter and Waterwings!

Miss May Walshaw who was on the bus at the time of the incident, had been left with a strong fear of travelling on public transport. After seven months she finally conquered her fear enough to do the same journey with the same driver, Albert Gunter, across the bridge. Two weeks later she was married, with Albert as her best man!

A big thank you to Dorothy Sullivan for sharing this little piece of history with us.