At 6.15am on Friday 4 April 1913, porter Edwin Mighell discovered bomb damage in the gentlemen’s toilet at Oxted Station. The Surrey Mirror reported that ‘walls were bulging, slates on the roof smashed, the doorway splintered and the window broken’.
Stationmaster Henry Holder called the police, and Superintendent West and Sergeant Boshier arrived to investigate. In the toilet they discovered a basket, containing a can of Shell petrol, a battery, firelighters, cycle oil, cotton wool, an alarm clock, and a cardboard box which may have held gunpowder. The damage was less than had been intended, as the petrol had not ignited.
A piece of paper, also found in the toilet, gave the police a clue. It featured a Junior Army and Navy Stores label, displaying the store department number, and the name ‘Mrs Watkins’. The police were able to speak to the store and learn the parcel’s delivery address, which then led them to Mrs Watkin’s husband, a jeweler and watch repairer. He had reused the parcel paper to send a mended item back to its owner, a Miss Frida Kerry.
An interview with Miss Kerry proved fruitless. She lived with her parents, and all three were connected to the suffrage movement. She would not willingly answer the police’s questions.
It wasn’t until the death of her husband, Harold Laski, in 1950, that Frida finally admitted who had been behind the explosion at the station. A suffragette sympathiser originally from Manchester, Harold had planted the bomb, before absconding to Paris for several days.
With thanks to Surrey History Centre. To read this story in more detail, visit: www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk.