THE STORY OF 'BOMBCON' (1941)

If you look in Eastercon Programme Books from before the 1990s you will see a 1941 London con included in the list of old conventions therein. This is the story of that event, which was sometimes called 'Bombcon', and why it no longer appears in those listings. All contemporary photos taken from J, Michael Rosenblum's photo albums.

There are two known accounts of the event, the first of which appeared in the October 1941 issue of Mike Rosenblum's FUTURIAN WAR DIGEST, under the title LONDON S.F.A. "REUNION", Sid Birchby reporting:

England's biggest fan reunion for the last year was held over the weekend, September 20/21, when in spite of the manifold difficulties attending such a proposition - far in excess of anything the US fans encounter - a muster of some 14 was managed. At Saturday lunch time a party gathered to welcome Maurice Hanson, ex-editor of "Novae Terrae" who had wangled leave from Somerset. After some bookhunting in Charing X Road, the party saw the film "Fantasia".

On Sunday, a crowd assembled in Liverpool St. stn. waiting room, and proceeded to convert it, in the approved manner of fan meetings, into a magazine mart. We rolled on to Holborn to meet author John Beynon Harris, nearly got arrested for taking photos of the gang, had tea, & held London's first open air meeting of fans, in Lincoln's Inn Fields. Principal Item on agenda, after speech of welcome by yours truly, seconded by John Craig, to Ted Carnell and friends, was discussion "What should fandom do after war?" Present at one or both meetings were -- Frank Arnold, Ted and Irene Carnell, Maurice Hanson, Art Williams, Canadian fan Bob Gibson, Harry & Lily Chibbett, John Craig, John Beynon Harris, Ken Bulmer, Denise Laws, Lily Jaggers, and yours truly.


In Lincoln's Inn Fields. Rear: Sid Birchby, Bob Gibson
Front: Irene Carnell, Frank Arnold, Maurice K. Hanson

Ken Bulmer, Feb 1942

Ted Carnell's report on the event appeared in VOM #19 (November 1941) edited by Forry Ackerman and was titled FIRST OPEN AIR SCIENCE FICTION MEETING--ENGLAND:

The weekend meetings were rather dizzy affairs. Despite our attempts at planning, nothing went to schedule. Joan Chapman called me up on the phone early Saturday to say that Ken had been posted farther afield -- a postal from Joan Temple in Cornwall stated Bill's leave had been put back two weeks. It began to look as though there would be very few at the meetings. Anyhow, Saturday's noon meeting brought Maurice Hanson -- the first time we had seen him since before Dunkirk, when he was home on leave from France. He looked fine, having filled out and become quite a tough looking customer. Frank Arnold was there, still as dynamic a personality as ever. Bob Gibson arrived okay -- a tall, slow speaking Canadian, with a memory for authors, stories and magazines that licked all our attempts.

We think Bob holds the record for the longest one-way trip to any fan meeting -- roughly 7000 miles. Not only that, but it was his first meeting with any other fan. Makes Doug Webster's 600 miles mighty small looking -- and Doug has yet to meet another fan! Well, Bob went down well with the crowd, his slow speech and mannerisms being a great contrast to our hurry-hurry-hurry ways. The other newcomer was young Art Williams. A very nice fair-haired youngster with a bright bird-like movement of his head. By the time we reached Charing Cross Road I was having a tough time keeping track of everybody. Y'see, the pull of the bookshops was too great for everyone, and they were eventually strung out along a 300 yard front. Later most of the gang went to see 'Fantasia'.

Sunday was a far better 'do' -- and I can announce Britain's first Open Air Science Fiction Meeting. The chances of obtaining a room for a meeting had gradually dwindled by the time we all met, so we were rather at a loss to know where to park ourselves. The gathering was scheduled for 3.30 p.m. at Liverpool Street railway depot -- that raised a laugh when Irene, Bob and I arrived. The gang had spread out numerous copies of recent magazines on the Waiting Room table, and an elderly man had mistaken the literature for general reading material supplied by the railroad people. So he was wading into a copy of ASTONISHING and nobody had the heart to take it away from him.

Present were Hanson, Birchby and girl friend Denise Laws, with her girl friend Lilian Jaggers. Rounding out the feminine section was Harold Chibbett's wife Lily, and Irene. The four of them being staunch weirdists -- maybe they'll get up a section after the war! Masculine: Chibbett; Ken Bulmer and Art Williams, newcomer collaborators in most everything stfictional; John Craig; John Beynon Harris; Bob Gibson and myself. Not a bad gathering considering the circumstances.


Ted Carnell

The Lincoln's Inn Fields bandstand in 2014

After much trouble with the gent who had borrowed the mag -- he wanted to finish reading it and mail it on! -- we invaded the Restaurant and had tea -- moved across Town a couple miles and had more tea. In a quiet little backwater off Holborn we found an unoccupied bandstand, with seats, and held our meeting there 'neath overlapping trees and swarming skeeters. Everyone signed an illuminated address (?) which I am forwarding to you by slower mail. The discussion centred round what we should do after the war, and embraced publications, both pro and amateur, the BIS and it's technical programs, and the revival of the SCIENCE FICTION ASSOCIATION.

One suggestion which might well come about, was a central Association with sections -- one for authors, one for amateur publications; another for the library; one for "just fans"; another with connections with the BIS for those interested in astronautical experiments, and so on. But the main agreement was that we should have to have a central clubroom which would be open every night in the week, and could accomodate out-of-towners who wished to stay.

It was grand meeting the old faces again, and for a few hours it seemed that we were back in the old days before the war.

While in the same location, it's possible the bandstand pictured above is not the one in which the group held their meeting. As the photo below shows, there's evidence another structure stood there earlier and it may well be this in which they met.


Sawn off remains of an earlier structure.

A plaque set in the bandstand floor.

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