One Under is a colloquial used by train drivers to mean simply “a person under a train“. It could be an accident or in at least one case on the London Underground – a homicide, but it almost always isn’t. Most are suicides.
It happens so often that everybody knows what one under means. Police, fire and rescue, the coroner, the medics all now say one under to each other without explanation. The London Underground network is a major suicide hotspot.
Two documentaries at least are named One Under. Channel 4 made a professional half-hour version for broadcast that will be posted at some point, but this much shorter effort by a university student is frankly just as good if not better.
The documentary looks mainly at people recalling their memories of one unders and how they coped with being caught up in a suicide, if they coped at all. Some struggle to understand why a person would put others through having to witness such a grisly death but the answer is simple: speeding trains (and other vehicles) provide one of the most guaranteed methods and that is worth a huge amount to the suicidal.
One unders don’t always work out like that, though. I once saw footage of rescuers trying to save a one under who was still conscious and talking under the train. Paramedics couldn’t help him wedged under the train and had to get clear for their own safety while the fire & rescue service jacked the train off him.
By the time they could get to the poor fucker, he was unconscious with neither pulse nor breathing. He died on the platform, going cold as elite medics from the London Air Ambulance tried to restart his heart. Imagine being conscious and aware with a train on top of you.
Feel free to skip ahead to the documentary now but here’s a little extra detail while we’re here. The students who made this, stuck it on Teh Evil YouTube where there’s a few interesting comments. One guy witnessed a one under:
Saw one at Harrow On The Hill in 1988. A girl in her late teens/early twenties was at the far east end of the westbound platform The train came in, and from the corner of my eye I saw a movement, which turned out to be the girl jumping. The train stopped about 3/4 down the platform, then slowly rolled up correct. The passengers were then de-trained. After a short time the platform was cleared and the train was pulled into to layup just west of the station. I didn’t leave. I was stunned-still.
The LT [Ed note: London Transport] guys were a bit too busy to notice me stood there. What was left of this person was unrecognisable. It was grim. I wont go into details. If that girl, or others actually knew the aftermath, I’d think they’d think again, or choose another method. Suffice to say, she was shovelled into bags. I just thought of the poor driver, the station staff who had to deal with it, and whoever had to identify the bits. Not nice. There’s a whole bunch of people from that day traumatised by that event.
Another YouTuber almost became a one under themselves:
When I was 17, I went to the train station in town, walked along the platform (out of sight of the other passengers) & prepared to jump. Words can’t describe how free & calm I felt, knowing that everything would be over.
Then my brother phoned me. Suddenly, everything snapped into perspective, & I made my way back to the other passengers, back down the stairs & spent a lovely, sunny afternoon with friends.
I often reflect on how differently that day could have turned out.
See, most suicides are impulses and most suicide failures eventually become glad they failed. Remember that if any of you guys are ever feeling like dying.
The final noteworthy comment came from a guy who had to deal with one unders working on the Underground:
I worked for LUL [Ed note: London Underground] for 25 years, started as a Box Boy, then driver, then Duty Manager. I dealt with countless one unders both as a driver and a manager. The whole thing leaves scares on the mind and it was a death of a teenage girl and her baby that finished me off. This production is good but brings back a lot of bad memorys for me.
Before handing over to the students, some background for non-Londoners like me: The Jubilee Line is famous and one of the busiest, likewise the Circle Line, but I can’t tell you where they go. Maybe a London S.O.B. can elaborate. King’s Cross is the famous big old Victorian station. They revamped it recently but up till then it was carrying 3-4 times as many people as it was designed for and it’s the UK’s busiest station, I think.
Why do you guys think people choose the busy places, often at rush hour? Do they get comfort from being surrounded by people in their final moments? Do the faceless crowds spur the already-depressed into spontaneous suicide? Do they want people to see and confront a usually private act we try to cover up and forget about? Or is it simply that more people means a higher chance that somewhere among them is a one under waiting to happen?