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Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust

Registered Charity Number 1118618

Artists impression of the proposed memorial
Artists impression of the proposed memorial
Bethnal Green Tube Disaster 1943.
On 3 March 1943 a crowd of people entered Bethnal Green tube station which was used at the time as an air-raid shelter. After the searchlights went on and an anti-aircraft battery a few hundred yards away in Victoria Park launched a salvo of a new type of anti-aircraft rockets the crowd surged forward. Someone tripped on the stairs causing many others to fall. 300 people were crushed into the stairwell within a few seconds, 173 of them died and over 90 were injured. The worst civilian disaster of the 2nd World War.
In a book published last year we recently discovered that there was also a government cover-up after the Bethnal Green tube shelter disaster.

Rick Fountain's book 'Mr. Morrison's Conjuring Tricks' sets out the evidence that in 1941 (so, two years before the disaster) Bethnal Green Council had written to the government asking for permission to alter the station entrance and make it safer if a lot of people wanted to use it. The Government department refused and the Borough Engineer wrote a stronger worded letter explaining that the entrance and stairway needed several measures to make them safer. Again the government refused permission. The Council's borough engineer wrote a third time to plead for permission to alter the entrance, but was once more refused.

The day after the disaster all these measures sought by the Council were put in place. However, Bethnal Green Council was made to keep their earlier letters secret, under the Official Secrets Act. The Council was therefore made to take the blame. Statements given in Parliament suggested that the victims were to blame. This ensured the event was kept as secret as possible. This was partially to prevent the enemy using it for propaganda purposes, but apparently it also saved the Home Secretary of the day, Herbert Morrison, from having to resign. The Mayor of Bethnal Green was not allowed to defend herself and was largely blamed for the tragedy.

The public enquiry, and the summing-up by the judge in the one court case that followed, largely agreed that there had been no panic on the part of the victims so they were not to blame. The final statement about the enquiry was read out in Parliament by another MP as Herbert Morrison had a cold on that day. So no questions could be asked. It was the Hillsborough of its day.

The memorial in spring 2014.
The memorial in spring 2014
We have already built two thirds of the memorial now all we need to do is raise the money to complete the 'stairway' on the top.

Details of how to donate to the trust are given at the bottom of this page and on the 'Appeal / Donations' page. If you have any additional fund raising ideas please let us know.

Get the latest news, visit our Blog! donate here.

posted: 4th May 2016.

Tottenham Hotspur FC pennant.

THFC pennant.

We have a Tottenham Hotspur FC pennant singed very recently by the current team to auction on EBay. There are only 4 more days to go so please log on to bid at: n-Memorial-Trust/83526?so=2

We also have a letter of authentication, as well as a page with all the signatures on and their names underneath, so you know who has actually signed the pennant.

There will be more items to auction for our charity in the future.

posted: 2nd April 2016.

Dr. Joan Martin’s radio interview.

Dr. Joan Martin’s interview on radio 4 on 1st April’s PM programme can be found at the BBC website.

It can also be found on our download page.

posted: 9th March 2016.

73rd Anniversary memorial service

St. John on Bethnal Green Church was packed for the memorial service to mark the 73rd anniversary of the Bethnal Green tube disaster, despite it being Mothering Sunday and such a cold day.

The Service was moving and uplifting, with wonderful words from Rev. Prebendary Alan Green and Leon Silver from the Nelson Street Synagogue. They spoke about the importance of remembering those that died that fateful night and to have their names on the memorial for all to see and remember in the future. They said that when the memorial is finished those victims will be at peace. Until then it is a case of unfinished business. The committee members of the charity were praised for working so hard over the last 9 years to achieve so much so far.

The parade across the road was led by Nick Ridsdale, the standard bearer of the Civil Defence, followed by lots of Pearly Kings & Queens, LBTH Mayor John Biggs with local councillors, charity Patron Tommy Walsh, actress Somi de Souza, representatives from the local police and many victims' relatives and survivors. They were greeted with a guard of honour from the local fire station as wreaths and flowers were laid on the partially built memorial. Fr. Green gave a short blessing and a minute's silence before everyone returned to the church for refreshments supplied by the local Sainsbury's, Tesco's and Brick Lane Beigel Shop.

It was great to see so many new faces, as well as regular visitors this year: families of victims, survivors, rescuers, as well as Dr. Joan Martin who was the doctor on duty in A & E at the QEII Children’s hospital and nurse Doris Russell who was on duty at Bethnal Green hospital on the night of the disaster. Dr. Joan has just celebrated her 100th birthday.

The charity secretary, Sandra Scotting, gave an update about the progress of the project. She said they had hoped to have the memorial finished by last October but there had been some very frustrating delays in bringing the teak over from Indonesia. Now it is in the country it is being doubly tested to ensure it will be fine. There are a few legal issues to be sorted out with the local council and then hopefully the work can commence. It is hoped the memorial can be finished this summer. The official unveiling date will be announced on this website. It might be a ticket only event for security reasons, but more information will be given out nearer the time.

Photographs from the service can be viewed here.

posted: 9th February 2016.


This years memorial service will take place on Sunday 6th March at 2pm at St. John on Bethnal Green Church (next to Bethnal Green underground station).

All are welcome to attend. After the Service we will parade across the road to lay wreaths and flowers on the partially built Memorial. Please do not use any metal parts in your wreaths or flowers as this often rusts up and leaves stains on the Memorial plinth which are difficult to remove.

Dame Barbara Windsor will be attending the memorial service this year too.

After the Service refreshments will be available in return for donations to the charity fund.

posted: 12th February 2016.


Babs being interviewed by CBS.

Babs Clark, one of our survivors, was filmed at the side of our Memorial early in February by American TV company CBS.

They will be broadcasting the programme about wartime shelters later in February on their prime-time morning show. They were delighted with the interview that Babs gave, as she has such a sunny, humorous way of talking that it went down very well with the film crew.

If anyone has relatives in America that want to watch it just get in touch and we'll let you know when we find out the broadcast date.

posted: 1st February 2016.

Stella Riddell's story.

Stella Riddell.

Brenda Birch has provided us with an evocative recollection of her cousin Stella Riddell, which can be viewed here.

posted: 6th January 2016.

Teak sections delivered.

Teak being unloaded from the delivery lorry.

We are delighted to announce that the teak has arrived in the UK at last.

These photos show it being unloaded.

posted: 22nd December 2015.

Good news to finish the year.

At long last we have some good news to finish the year. The teak that will be used to complete the final part of the memorial (the 'stairway') is finally on its way to the UK. After a number of frustrating delays the ship containing the teak will dock at the end of December. Then once the various UK manufacturers give us dates and timings we will have a better idea when it will be finished. We will obviously keep you updated on the progress during 2016.

Please note that the Memorial Service to mark the 73rd anniversary of the Bethnal Green tube shelter disaster will take place on Sunday 6th March at 2pm at St. John on Bethnal Green Church (next to Bethnal Green underground station). All are welcome to attend and bring along flowers and wreaths to lay on the Memorial after the Service. But please make sure there are no metal parts to the wreaths or flowers as they stain the plinth and it is difficult to get the brown marks off.

Our final fund-raising event of 2015 was the Arsenal football memorabilia raffle. The draw for this was kindly conducted by Bristol Rovers manager, Darrell Clarke, at the Holiday Inn Hotel, Brentwood, on 19th December. The four winners have now been notified and we are extremely grateful to everyone that took part and helped us raise £625.

Arsenal draw.

As you can see from the photos Darrell Clarke helped our charity chairman, Mike Pattison, with the draw and then our treasurer, Derek Spicer, had his photo taken with the Bristol Rovers team.

Arsenal draw.

Darrell kindly agreed to pick the winning tickets after Derek spotted him and the team in the hotel lobby. They agreed to take a break from their team talk to help us out.

posted: 1st February 2016.

Dr. Joan's 100th birthday party.

Dr. Joan's 100th birthday party cake. Dr. Joan's 100th birthday party cake.

Dr. Joan Martin MBE celebrated her 100th birthday in November. Joan was the doctor on duty in A & E on the night of the disaster at the Queen Elizabeth Children's Hospital in Hackney Road. Joan's story appears on the 'individual story' page of this website.

You can also view some photographs taken at Dr Joan's party.

Joan has been a wonderful inspiration for us. Apart from being a doctor she travelled the world advocating the Halliwick Concept of swimming for the disabled. She devoted her life to helping disabled children and, having become a Girl Guide at the age of 13, she went on to become a Guide Training Advisor for England. She has had a very colourful life. She has attended all our Memorial Services and it was a pleasure to see her with about 200 of her friends at the party and to wish her a very happy birthday and many more.

posted: 22nd December 2015.

The Hague Primary School talk.

Survivor Babs Clark gave a talk about the Bethnal Green tube disaster, along with the charity’s secretary Sandra Scotting, to The Hague primary school in November.

The Hague primary school talk.

The pupils in Year 5 were so attentive and asked very sensible questions. They have also written some lovely thank-you letters.

The Hague primary school talk.

Their teacher said that the children have a much better sense of the history of Bethnal Green and were really moved by the story of all the people who died. As one child said 'It is unbelievable to think that that happened here.’

We certainly enjoyed visiting the school and meeting all the children. They always make us so welcome.

posted: 1st November 2015.

Win signed Arsenal football and tee shirts.

Arsenal items.

Arsenal items.

We are organizing a raffle for a signed Arsenal football and signed Arsenal football shirts to raise some money for the last of our Bethnal Green tube disaster memorial project to be finished.

For each £10 donated on our website we will put your name in a hat and draw out the winners before Christmas.

Please make your donation/s on this page by clicking on the 'donate now' button above. Then email the secretary (see below) to confirm how many chances you have donated for. We will also need your phone number to contact you when we make the draw so you can let us know which of the items you would like to have. We will not keep these phone numbers after the event.

You need to make your donations by the 8th December at the latest please.

Thanks sandra

Hon. Sec: email

Click here for photographs of the football and tee shirts.

posted: 18th November 2015.

Teak order nearing shipment date.

Teak order nearing shipment date. The order of teak planks that that will make up the final part of the ‘stairway’ is being assembled at the saw mill ready for shipping.

Click here for photographs of the teak shipment being prepared.

posted: 12th November 2015.

Schools visit on Remembrance Day

schools visit remembrance sunday Pupils from Morpeth School and Globe Road Primary School visited our Memorial on Monday 9th November to lay wreaths and flowers in memory of their former pupils that died in the Bethnal Green tube shelter disaster.

Full story and photographs.

posted: 10th November 2015.

Please sponsor a conical

artists impression of the conicals

Can you help us to finish the partially built Bethnal Green tube disaster memorial? We are asking individuals and businesses to sponsor one of the 173 conicals for £200 each. The conicals will be sited in the roof of the ‘stairway’ that will go on top of the existing memorial plinth. They will be all different shapes and sizes to represent the victims whose ages range from 5 months to 78 years old.

Please let us know who you would like to sponsor a conical in memory of, and we will add this to the list on our website, with the victims’ names and the sponsors at the side of them. This matter is urgent as we want the memorial completed before we lose any more of our survivors. We need to raise just £5,000 more to finish it, so can you help us do that quickly now?

Sunlight will shine through the conicals onto the paving below. The surname of all the victims will be carved in large letters around the sides of the teak ‘stairway’ so they can be seen all round that busy junction.

For more information please call our charity office on 01474 702513.

posted: 15th July 2015.

Schools pack and audio trail

On Thursday 9th July, despite the tube strike in London, the University of East London organised a launch at the side of the Memorial. This was to announce their schools pack which will be sent to all schools that would like to learn about the tube disaster. They also launched a new plaque close to the memorial, on the railings looking down towards the stairway on which everyone died. This plaque explains how to download the memory-scape audio trail to listen to when walking around the memorial. You can download the APP or you can hire audio units from the library nearby, but at present that is closed for refurbishment.

Harry Paticas, an architect from Arboreal Architecture, had worked hard to produce the plaque so it is in keeping with the memorial – in the same unique Bethnal Green font. He unveiled the plaque with our patron, Tommy Walsh.

Dr. Toby Butler, from the Raphael Samuel History Department of the University of East London, had applied to the Heritage Lottery and obtained a grant to undertake the historical work involved with the disaster records. This allowed him, along with a team of wonderful volunteers and staff, over the last 2 years recording the memories of our survivors, relatives of the victims, rescuers and anyone that witnessed the disaster in one way or another.

These recordings are vital for future generations to know what happened on that fateful night and afterwards. To have this historical gem of recordings has been something that we would never have been able to do ourselves, so we are extremely grateful to all of those that have been involved from the University of East London in the Bethnal Green Memorial Project and of course to the Heritage Lottery for the grant for them to do this.

Extracts have been incorporated into the memory-scape audio trail so you will be able to listen to them when walking around the memorial. Tommy Walsh did the voice-over for the trail which gives it the authentic cockney background to the memories.

posted: 8th July 2015.

Ben Nevis Challenge

Ben Nevis Challenge photo 1

These 4 gorgeous and brave guys completed the gruelling Ben Nevis challenge on 20th June and raised £1,350 for us. We think they are wonderful to have done this and helped us enormously towards the completion of the memorial.

Ben Nevis Challenge photo 2

Brian Wood has recently left the British Army after 16yrs. His old commander spoke to him about the Bethnal Green disaster and the Stairway to Heaven Memorial that needs to be finished. He decided that it would be a great challenge for him and his 3 friends, Matt Ryan, Russell Smith and Monty Bath, to complete and raise money for an outstanding cause!

Ben Nevis Challenge photo 3

Well done lads and thanks a million. Hope you have recovered now.

posted: 23rd April 2015.

Raju Vaidyanathan's last Marathon.

Raju Vaidyanathan's

Raju Vaidyanathan is running his last marathon on 26th April. He has taken part every year to raise funds for our charity and this will be his last as his knees won't last much longer!! Please donate to make it worth his while limping round the course one last time.

Please donate here

posted: 23rd April 2015.

I remember, I remember.

I remember screen shot crop

The owner of the Genesis cinema in Mile End Road, Tyrone Walker-Hebborn, kindly organised a film night for us followed by a 1940s themed party. It started with a wartime newsreel and the featured Somi de Souza’s film ‘I remember, I remember’ with interviews of 3 of our survivors. It is a very moving and powerful film, but is quite short. For those of you that were unable to attend this excellent evening please click on this link to watch it now.

Everyone enjoyed the party with its Lindy Hop dancing and generously added donations in our buckets and tins. Our thanks go to Tyrone and all the staff at the Genesis cinema and especially to Somi De Souza for producing the film as a fund-raiser for our charity. The film remains the copyright of Somi de Souza so please do not share it without our permission.

posted: 19th March 2015.

100th anniversary of S & R Kelly & Sons pie & mash shop.

Robert Kelly. S & R Kelly & Sons pie & mash shop at 284 Bethnal Green Road were celebrating their 100th birthday on Saturday.

All day long owner Robert Kelly was working hard producing his pies with mash and liquor followed by bread pudding free of charge.

Pie loving supporters just had to put a donation in the buckets for our charity.

Robert Kelly said that his family had been serving families in Bethnal Green for 100 years with pie & mash, jellied eels and live eels. So he wanted to give something back to the East End by raising funds to help finish our Memorial to the Bethnal Green tube disaster.

Pearly Kings & Queens and a pianist helped the party atmosphere with a good old fashioned ‘knees up’ and sing along throughout the day. Customers came from all over London and the South East to join in.

Derek Spicer, Treasurer of the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust charity, said he was delighted with the response and wanted to thank Robert and the rest of the Kelly family for their generosity in organising such a wonderful event and raising just over £2000 for us on the day, plus a very generous donation from the family too. This will help us to complete the final part of the Memorial this year.

posted: 3rd March 2015.

2015 Memorial Service.

Lighting candles 2015

We were blessed with beautiful weather for the 72nd anniversary of the Bethnal Green tube disaster on 1st March. The sky was blue, the sun shone and St. John on Bethnal Green Church was packed with survivors, rescuers and relatives of those involved in the disaster as well as many people from the local community and far flung places.

Actress Somi De Souza read the poem ‘I am there’ during the Service and the names of all 173 people who died in the disaster were read out while 173 candles were lit on the altar by the Rector, Rev. Prebendary Alan Green, and assistant priest, Rev’d Christine Hall. Rev’d Green spoke about all those who had died in the disaster who were not involved in the fighting, but just going about their normal day. He said that the memorial that remembers them should also help us to remember all those who die in conflicts around the world today and to try to prevent them. The Rt. Hon. Rushanara Ali read the poem ‘I’d Like the memory of Me’ and John Biggs, Greater London Assembly Member for City & East London gave a reading from the prophet Isaiah.

After the Service The Speaker and Councillors of Tower Hamlets Council, as well as local MP Rushanara Ali and GLA’s, John Biggs, led the parade across the road with lots of Pearly Kings & Queens, to lay wreaths and flowers on the partially built memorial honouring the tragedy. A line of fireman from Bethnal Green station stood in honour of their former comrades who helped in the rescue at the side of the memorial.

The Secretary of the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust charity, that is raising funds to complete the memorial, said that thanks to the wonderful generosity of so many people and the families of those involved in the disaster, plus the match-funding donation of £10,000 from Canary Wharf PLC and a further donation of £25,000 from Tower Hamlets Council, it meant that the final part of the memorial (the ‘stairway’) could at last be ordered.

It is expected that this final phase will take at least 8 months to be shipped, cured, carved and put in place, but it is hoped that it will be completed by the end of the year. The charity will continue to raise funds to be able to pay for the final bills for the memorial fixings and to cover the VAT, which will eventually be refunded - provided the new government honours that commitment. Businesses and individuals are urged to continue to sponsor the conicals that will be sited in the roof of the memorial and allow sunlight to shine through, representing the victims.

The conicals can be sponsored for £200 and have their name and/or business website listed at the side of one of the victims names on the charity’s website, plus the Bishopsgate Institute and Tower Hamlets archives for posterity. So far several local businesses have sponsored conicals – S & R. Kelly’s pie & mash shop, 284 Bethnal Green Road; The Hare pub, 505 Cambridge Heath Road; Rinkoff family Bakery, Jubilee Street, E1; PIP Electrics Ltd; The Boudoir in Docklands; Goodger Design Associates: the Hague School (in memory of their former pupil Rose Relf Jnr), Karen Goodger Zumba Gold Teacher; Peter Sceats & Associates; Joe Ellis and NAKMAS; and Len Goodman from Strictly, in honour of his relative, boxer Dickie Corbett.

After the Service everyone was encouraged to return to the church for refreshments helped partly by donations from Sainsbury’s and the Beigel Shop in Brick Lane. An exhibition about the disaster was also there for people to look at.

Photographs of the service will follow soon.