Bethnal Green and the 70th Anniversary of the Blitz on London

Posted by admin | August 24, 2010 1

With the 70th Anniversary of Blitz on London and the Battle of Britain there is added poignancy to the “Stairway to Heaven” appeal which is trying to build a fitting memorial to the 173 victims of the Bethnal Green Tube Disaster. The worst tragedy on London Underground was in 1943 during World War II in East London at Bethnal Green Tube Station. This was an extension to the Central Line which had not been completed when war broke out and the unfinished station was taken over by London County Council to be used as an Air Raid Shelter during the Blitz of London by the Luftwaffe. On March 3rd. 1943 the largest loss of civilian life in a single non-military incident during World War II, happened in the East End of London. 173 people perished at Bethnal Green tube station. They were crushed to death by the weight of their own bodies. 62 of the dead were children.

Sean Dettman’s book on the tradgedy

There is going to be a special day at Bethnal Green library on Saturday 4th September commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Blitz in which the Stairway to Heaven appeal will be taking part. Entertainment & readings at 1pm, survivors of the disaster will give talks at 2pm and Sean Dettman will be giving a talk and & signing copies of his book on the disaster at 2.45pm. The library is a two minute walk from Bethnal Green tube station, just the other side of Bethnal Green Gardens (Barmy Park).

Barbara Windsor kicking back with the Pearly Kings and Queens
of London at the 67th Anniversary Memorial Service.
Bethnal Green Tube Station with St. John’s
Church in the background.

The proposed and long overdue memorial to these forgotten victims is an inverted stairway at Bethnal Green Tube Station with the victims names inscribed on the steps. The memorial known as “The Stairway to Heaven” has been designed by local architecture practice Paticas Architecture, with initial help from Jens Borstelmann. They have therefore designed a massive bronze cast of the staircase, which will appear to float alongside the stairs where the people actually died, with 173 small beams of light will represent those who lost their lives.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill inspecting bomb
damage in Bethnal Green

The memorial will vividly describe the historical facts of the Bethnal Green tragedy and will provide shelter form the rain as well as illumination for people entering or exiting the station. It will create a landmark at an important junction on an Olympic Route. Full planning permission has now been granted by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets for the Memorial to be built. Now all that is needed is to raise the money. For details of the fund raising and more information see the appeal site from which I’ve also used part of the material for this piece. Please give your support to this worthy cause and try to get to the 70th anniversary Event.

The proposed “Stairway to Heaven” memorial

70th Anniversary of the Blitz Event
1 pm Saturday 4th September
Bethnal Green Library
Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 0HL

For ways to support the memorial campaign see the campaign website;

A short documentary telling the story of the Bethnal Green Tube shelter disaster in which 173 people were killed in a tragic accident in 1943.

For the full background on the Bethnal Green Disaster see;


For more see TUBE BLOGS and TRANSPORT BLOGS in the Blog sidebar 

Latest posts by admin (see all)

One Response