68 years ago on March 3rd. 1943 in the largest loss of civilian life in a single non-military incident during World War II, 173 people perished at Bethnal Green tube station. They are not forgotten.
Today on Sunday 6th March 2011 a Commemoration Service for the 68th anniversary of the Bethnal Green tube disaster took place at St. John on Bethnal Green Church (next door to the tube station) at 2pm. There was a blessing at the top of the stairs where everyone died and relatives and survivors were encouraged to lay flowers or wreaths to their loved ones. Refreshments and a chance for locals and supporters to reminisce after the Service were provided inside the church and there was an exhibition of articles, photographs and other information about the Bethnal Green tube disaster.
Here is an eyewitness testimony of what happened that fateful night;
“Bethnal Green tube station was used as a shelter. The line was boarded over there. Women worked down there on war work. They were safe from the bombing. I think the warning went, and they opened up with rockets. They reckon people started running in the station, causing a panic. They reckon probably a woman with a child had a bundle of clothing, fell, and then the other people fell on top of her, and they all piled up until there was a hundred and seventy-three people that was killed. The next day the air raid warden asked us to look at the ones they couldn’t identify. There was a pile of bodies, and the police uncovered their faces in case you might recognise people. Out of fifty or sixty people there, there was nothing I could recognise.”
The Memorial Fund is dedicated to building a “Stairway to Heaven” to properly commemorate the victims. Its patron Tommy Walsh was there and the names of all those who died were read out. Here is the detail of the fundraising to date and the proposed memorial; Please help by contributing to this cause.
Here is the coverage of the service on ITV News; the BBC didn’t bother to turn up.
In Memory of the 173 Men, Women and Children who lost their lives on the evening of
Wednesday 3rd March 1943 descending these steps to Bethnal Green underground air raid shelter
For the full story of the Bethnal Green Disaster see;
Here is a short documentary of the Disaster and the proposed memorial. It includes an interview with Alf Morris who as a 13 year old was the last survivor to be dragged alive from the crush.