News this week that the government has decided to close down the Central Office of Information has left me with mixed feelings.
On the one hand, the COI – or the Ministry of Propoganda as it has often been referred to – was first opened after the war in 1946 and its task over the intervening years has been to commission public information films and government advertising and publicity campaigns. Apparently, some of these have been ‘memorable’ but I confess I cannot bring any to mind…
On the other hand, I have a strange recollection of the place that dates back to the early 1970’s at the height of the IRA bombing campaign.
I was working for a construction company at its offices in Westminster Bridge Road which backed onto the COI building. I looked out onto the rear of it from my office window. I can’t actually remember which came first but there was a moment in my life where fate took a hand.
I used to buy a newspaper on the way to work and read it on the train. Often I would cut this bit thin, jump straight on the train and then buy my paper at Westminster tube station. This particular morning I walked straight past the IRA bomb at the tube station whic hexploded as I was halfway across Westminster bridge. If I had stopped to buy a paper, I have no doubt I would have been killed.
This was bad enough, but then they bombed the COI. I remember coming into work to find the windows blown out. The blast was sufficient to also break my office window and I came in to find my desk strewn with broken glass.
The annoucement of the COI closure has brought all this back to me quite vividly and made me reflect on how different things could have been.
As a postscript, a few weeks later the IRA bombed High Holborn – right next to the office where I used to work. They say three strikes and you’re out. Well I reckon I’d had my three!
I never worked in London again.