Her Majesty’s Inspector of Explosives and the Dynamite Rascals


Spy (Leslie Ward), Vivian Dering Majendie, 1892

From The Conversation:

On the last day of February 1884, the then home secretary Sir William Harcourt rose in the UK parliament to answer a question about a series of bomb attacks on two of London’s major railway stations. He read out details of an initial investigation of two bombs, one which had detonated at Victoria Station and another which had been discovered, unexploded, at Charing Cross.

The bombs, which had been deposited in the stations’ left luggage offices, were of a similar design, and resembled the remains of bombs that had detonated, Harcourt said, in Glasgow, Liverpool and elsewhere in London. The unexploded device, discovered by a vigilant ticket clerk at Charing Cross, and the remains of the bomb that had detonated at Victoria were rushed to the Woolwich Arsenal.

According to Harcourt, the Charing Cross device comprised a “shabby black American-leather portmanteau, two feet by twelve inches”. But what it contained was of particular interest. As reported in The Telegraph, it was an “infernal machine” comprised of a clock, a pistol trigger mechanism, moving cogs and bars of a soft, chemical-smelling material.

An expert was called: Colonel Vivian Dering Majendie, a man whom, The Times reported, was renowned for being “most painstaking in his investigations” into explosive devices and the people who built them.

“The First Bomb Disposal Expert: Colonel Vivian Majendie and the Original ‘War on Terror’”, James Crossland, The Conversation

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