The day a bus jumped Tower Bridge

You might have heard of the terrific tale involving two London icons - Tower Bridge and a London bus. 

But do you know the true story behind the Tower Bridge bus jump? Read on to find out...

Tower Bridge and London Bus

What happened?

On 30th December 1952, Albert Gunter was happily going about his day job, driving the number 78 bus over Tower Bridge towards Shoreditch. To his utter surprise, the road in front of him seemed to drop away.

Gunter quickly realised that the Bridge was opening, and his bus was on a rising bascule.

Slamming his foot down on the accelerator, Gunter managed to jump the rising bascule. He successfully reached the north side of Tower Bridge, which had not yet begun to open, getting all his 20 passengers across safely.

As a precaution, all those of on board were taken to hospital. Thankfully, there was only one person injured: Gunter broke his leg. Amazingly enough, the bus, which was going at just 12 mph (19.3 km/h), was intact.

Before we knew it, we were going across Tower Bridge but just as we had gone over the first half of the section that goes up there was aloud crashing sound and I was thrown onto the floor.

The bus came to a halt and the driver came round to invite us to have a look at the gap that had opened on the opposite half. The driver then told us that as he started to drive across the opening part of the bridge, he realised that the side that the bus was on was going up.

He said he could only think of two options as to what to do: one was to stop the bus and hope some-one would realise what was happening and stop it, but that left the possibility of the bus slipping back and perhaps toppling into the river; the other was to continue driving and to “jump” the gap.

He said that he had been a tank-driver during the war and that a tank would have had no trouble getting onto the other side and decided to see if a double-decker could do the same. So, to his quick thinking, we were all delivered safe to the other side.

- Peter Dunn, passenger on board

Tower Bridge Bascule lift

Why did the Bridge lift?

Back in the 1950s, a watchman was supposed to ring a warning bell and close the gates before Tower Bridge opened.

On that particular day, he somehow forgot to do so.

Albert Gunter's reward - Alamy

Albert Gunter's reward

For this act of bravery and quick thinking, Albert was awarded a day off work and a reward of £10 (about £290 in today’s money). When asked how he would spend the reward, he replied "Five for me, and five for the missus". 

© PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Watch this short film of Gunter accepting his award:

The Bridge jump in pop culture

This historic feat has been referenced in many different ways throughout the years. 

Spice Girls the Movie

A rather exciting version was in Spice Girls the Movie, where Posh Spice (Victoria Beckham) drove a double decker tour bus decorated in the union jack over Tower Bridge - although the filming for this was made slightly easier by using a model bus and bridge instead of the real thing. 

Peppa Pig

In an episode of Pepper Pig, 'Peppa Goes to London', Peppa is given a bus tour by the Queen. Impatient to carry on their tour and not willing to wait for the Bridge to close, the Queen drives the bus across the Bridge, something we wouldn't advise - even to her Majesty. 

The Tower Bridge Cat

The story of the Bridge jump was the inspiration behind the award-winning children's book 'The Tower Bridge Cat'. Can Bella the Cat save the day when a bus drives over the open Bridge?

 Read more about The Tower Bridge Cat

Bella the Cat - Tower Bridge Cat book