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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: 1st April 2014.


The Jack the Ripper guided walks by Ripperologist Edward Stow.

Bank Holiday Monday 25th August 2014 at 1pm and 5pm.

Tickets are £10 and the walk will last 2 hours and end at Spitalfields.

Meet at the Bethnal Green Memorial, next to Bethnal Green tube station.

You can turn up and pay on the day but if you want to avoid being disappointment book in advance by emailing the secretary on or phone Derek Spicer on 07722 162 168.

You can download a poster for the event from the download page.

posted: 1st April 2014.


Boris Johnson presenting the cheque to our charity for £10,000 to Derek Spicer and Mike Pattison outside City Hall.
Boris Johnson presenting the £10,000
cheque to Derek Spicer and
Mike Pattison outside City Hall
Mayor Boris Johnson has just announced (today 1st April) on the Nick Ferrari show on LBC radio that Transport for London would be giving us £10,000 towards the final part of our memorial.

We now hope that businesses and individuals will match this generosity and help us raise the last £75,000 that we need to be able to complete the Stairway to Heaven Memorial as quickly as possible this year.

For more details please ring the charity office on 01474 702513 or Derek Spicer, our fund-raising Trustee on 07722 162 168.

Sandra (Hon. Sec)

posted: 7th May 2014.

Boris Johnson with survivor Babs Clark.

The Mayors letter

The Mayor Boris Johnson has sent a letter confirming the donation of ten thousand pounds to our charity.

Click on the image to read the letter

posted: 1st April 2014.


The race night on 8th March raised £725.80 with thanks to Ladbrokes for helping us so much with the event.

The bucket station collection at Bethnal Green on 7th March brought in £467.60 and at Liverpool Street tube station on 29th March raised £654.18. So a huge thank you to all our helpers and to everyone that gave donations at these events.

Sandra (Hon. Sec)

posted: 4th March 2014.

71st Anniversary Memorial Service, Sunday 2nd March 2014.

One hundred and seventy three candles were lit as a community united once again to commemorate the worst civilian disaster of World War 2.

On Sunday 2nd March survivors, rescuers and relatives, involved in the Bethnal Green tube shelter disaster, gathered together at St. John on Bethnal Green Church.

They were there to honour the 173 people that died (62 of whom were children), over 90 injured, plus all the Emergency Services personnel, who were affected by the tragedy on 3rd March 1943.

Read more ...

posted: 12th December 2013

Honorary Secretary's report December 2013.

Our Trustee, Anna Reid, is organising a Spot the Ball competition for us. It costs £1 for you to enter and put your cross on the colour photo to show where you think the ball is. Entries must be sent to her by 4th January so please order yours from Derek Spicer on 07722 162 168.

Our month-long photographic exhibition at Bethnal Green library had to be cut short in the last few days as somebody stole one of the photographs (worth £75). However we only missed a few days, but we are sorry for anyone that made the journey in the last couple of days.

The arts and photographic auction that took place on 14th November raised just over £900 and the Festive Fair on 16th raised just over £515. Our thanks to everyone that helped out, everyone that donated paintings and goods, and to everyone that bought photos & painting at the auction or items at the Festive Fair. A special thank-you to our wonderful auctioneer, comedian John Ryan, to photographer Mike Pattison who provided the photographs, and to Bethnal Green library staff and St. John on Bethnal Green Church for allowing us to hold the events there.

We still have some paintings and beautiful hand-painted china to sell. Details of these can be obtained by email if needed or we will try to sell the rest early in the New Year.

The final event of the year is a bucket collection at the East London Design & fashion exhibition at Truman’s Brewery, Brick Lane from 5th to 8th December inclusive.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our supporters and helpers for their support and hard work during the year and to wish you all a peaceful Christmas and a happy and Prosperous New Year. Let’s hope we will be able to complete the last part of the Stairway to Heaven Memorial sometime in 2014.

Sandra (Hon. Sec/Trustee)

posted: 2nd December 2013

2014 Desk Calendars.

alt alt
We now have 2014 desk calendars for sale for £5 each. They have lots of photos on them. If possible please phone Derek Spicer on 07722 162 168 to order yours and if you are in London he will probably be able to meet you somewhere to hand them over. If not, then postage will have to be added.

posted: 1st December 2013

Gatehouse School cheque.

alt On 13th November Gatehouse School in Sewardstone Road, Bethnal Green said they would like to present Sandra with a cheque after the talk she had given the pupils with survivor Babs Clark a year earlier. The children had been raising funds through cake sales and selling their school magazine. All the pupils were present in assembly, having filed in to the sound of Vera Lynn singing 'We'll meet again'.
Then one by one the Year 6 pupils read out the sequence of events leading up to the Bethnal Green tube disaster that they had written as a result of the earlier talk. The penultimate pupil explained about the fund-raising that had taken place and then the final pupil presented a cheque for £1632.27 which was such a wonderful surprise.

The children and staff had worked so hard to raise so much money and they were helped by two of the staff who also lost loved ones in the disaster. We would like to place on record our grateful thanks to everyone involved in raising so much money for the charity and hope that the children will be able to walk past the Stairway to Heaven Memorial knowing that they contributed so much towards it.

posted: 8th November 2013

Photographic Exhibition.

The photographic exhibition is now on show at Bethnal Green library until 16th November. The photos are all in black and white and show places and characters from the East End in the 1960s and 70s by professional photographer Mike Pattison.

... more ...

posted: 8th November 2013


We will hold a Festive Fair on the forecourt of St. John on Bethnal Green Church (next to Bethnal Green underground station) on Saturday 16th November 10am to 4pm. We need Christmas gifts, wrapping paper, cakes, good quality books and bric-a-brac, plus items for the tombola. These will have to be delivered to the church on the morning of the sale as there is nowhere to store them. It would therefore help us if you could let us know what you have to offer. Help on the day would also be useful.

posted: 8th November 2013


The East London Sunday Football League played a superb tournament of matches on Sunday 8th September in aid of our charity. Twenty teams competed throughout the day, finishing with a thrilling penalty shoot-out final.

... more ...

posted: 8th November 2013

Jack the Ripper Anniversary guided walk

Two Jack the Ripper guided walks took place on 31st August conducted by Ripperologist, Edward Stow. It was a fascinating tour and talk which seemed to prove exactly who the Ripper was and why he was connected to the Bethnal Green tube disaster.

... more ...

posted: 8th November 2013

Sponsored swim.


Sue Spicer did a magnificent sponsored swim for us on 31st August. The Great East Swim took place in open water at Millwall Dock, in a wet suit, cheered on by all her family.

She completed the mile in 30 minutes and 25 seconds, which was much faster than she ever imaged. She came in 538th out of 2060 swimmers, and 77th in her age group. She was also the 152nd female home, which was fantastic. She also raised over £370 for us with more funds coming in. Well done Sue for completing such a brilliant event and a wonderful amount to raise. Our grateful thanks to Sue and all her friends and family that sponsored her. The photo shows Sue with Derek Spicer.

posted: 6th August 2013


The Memorial will be open during the Open House weekend on Saturday 21st September from 10am until 6pm for free tours of the Memorial by the architect who will explain the significance of the Memorial. Children welcome.

It will not be open the following day. If you would like more details or to book a tour contact the charity secretary on 01474 702513.

posted: 6th August 2013

Cockney afternoon.

Cllr. Lesley Pavitt, Speaker of Tower Hamlets Council and local councillor for Bethnal Green South, attended our cockney entertainment afternoon at St. John on Bethnal Green Church on Tuesday 23rd July.

Pearly Kings and Queens from around London came along and introduced themselves before showing an amusing film about the history of the Pearlies.

... more ...

posted: 7th June 2013

Evening of laughter fund raiser

Lee Hurst’s Backyard Comedy Club in Bethnal Green will be helping us raise funds with an evening of laughter on Friday 11th October. It’s on the ground floor of the new Travelodge in Cambridge Heath Road, almost opposite our memorial and a few minutes walk from Bethnal Green underground station. Parking is free on the surrounding streets after 5.30pm.

Tickets are just £10 each to our supporters but although it is not until October they have to be ordered fairly soon because any remaining ones will be offered to the public at a higher price nearer the time.

There will be several comics performing and we won’t know all their names for a while, but we can assure you of an enjoyable evening. Doors open at 5.30pm and there is a bar and restaurant. Everyone needs to be seated by 7.45pm.

Please order your tickets through this link

The Comedy Backyard Club, 231 Cambridge Heath Rd| Bethnal Green| London| E2 0EL|

Memorial open as part of the Open House weekend in Seo ptember.

The Memorial will be open as part of the Open House weekend on Saturday 21st September from 10am until 5pm. Free entry to the site with talks about the disaster and from the architect about the Memorial itself and the symbolism etc.

posted: 7th June 2013



The final phase of the Stairway to Heaven Memorial moved a step close after a fun evening on 29th May at the spectacular Forman’s Fish Island Smokehouse Gallery for our charity arts auction. It was initially conducted by Mayor Boris Johnson, aided by Eastenders actress Patsy Palmer and comedian John Ryan.

... more ...

posted: 7th March 2013

70th Anniversary Memorial Service.

View of memorial with flowers on the 70th anniversary It was standing room only in the packed St John on Bethnal Green Church where survivors, rescuers and relatives of those that died in the Bethnal Green tube shelter disaster came together to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the worst civilian disaster of World War II. Approximately 550 people were uplifted and comforted by the Memorial Service, conducted by Reverence Prebendary Alan Green, Rector of St. John on Bethnal Green Church, aided by its curate, Revd Stuart Lee.

They were joined by local MP Rushanara Ali, John Biggs (London Assembly member for City & East), TV's DIY expert Tommy Walsh, singer/TV presenter Cheryl Baker, SKY TV's Harry Harris and other members of the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust plus an army of Pearly Kings & Queens. The names of the 173 people that died were read out by members of the charity committee as Rev Green said it was important that they are remembered as their names were suppressed at the time of the disaster due to wartime secrecy. Sixty two of the victims were children and Cheryl Baker sobbed as she read her list of names that started with Carole Geary, the youngest child to have died at just 5 months old. Rev Green lit 173 candles on the altar as the names were read out.

After the Service a parade, led by Nick Ridsdale carrying the Standard of the Civil Defence, crossed the road where everyone was able to lay wreaths and flowers on the newly built Stairway to Heaven Memorial for the first time. Prayers of blessing and dedication for the Memorial were given by representatives from the Buddhist, Jewish and Muslim faiths as well as from Rev. Green. After a minute's silence, lone bugler Terry Hissey played 'The Farewell', a civilian equivalent of 'The Last Post'

A number of new survivors joined those already known to the charity for a photograph at the side of the Memorial. It was the first time that they had all been together for 70 years. Some of the survivors had travelled long distances to be able to pay their respects to family and friends that were not as lucky as they were.(some that had never spoken about the disaster before). The charity had put out an appeal for anyone connected with the disaster to attend and give their details to Dr. Toby Butler of the University of East London. His team from the Raphael Samuel History Centre at the University will copy and store digitally their memories and records for posterity.

Plaques on the memorial list the names and ages of all the victims as well as a number of individual plaques giving testimonials to what happened on that fateful night, written by survivors, relatives of the fallen and Emergency Services personnel. Walking around the memorial and reading their accounts of that night gives a snapshot of the horror that unfolded. Police and firemen were there to honour their former comrades that worked tireless through the night pulling out people from the crush, not knowing if their own family and friends would be among the dead and injured. The sights they experienced, particularly with so many children involved, affected them for the rest of their lives.

The Stairway to Heaven Memorial Charity, set up in 2007 to build a memorial to honour the disaster, has managed to fund two thirds so far, but still needs £105,000 to complete it. It is hoped this could be finished as soon as possible so that the many survivors (who may not have time on their side) will know that the story of the disaster will be immortalised for future generations.

If anyone has any information about the disaster please contact Dr Toby Butler ( or call 01732 366670. If you would like to make a donation towards the final 'stairway' part of the memorial please pres the 'donate now' button or phone Derek Spicer on 07722 162 168.

posted: 17th January 2013

The Memorial in January 2013.

Good progress on memorial

The Memorial is looking really good now.

studs The bench has been added, the paving is in place and the turf is looking great after all the rain. There is some remedial work to be done before the final polish over the next few weeks and then the plaques will be fixed in the slots. The flower beds will be planted as soon as the weather conditions are right. It should all be looking spectacular in time for the 70th anniversary Memorial Service on Sunday 3rd March at 2pm at St. John on Bethnal Green Church. After the Service we will be able to lay wreaths and flowers on the Memorial itself for the first time and there will be room to accommodate everyone instead of the few crowding around the pavement at the top of the stairs.

We hope that there will be lots of survivors, relatives and Emergency Services personnel attending, as well as anyone who is interested in the event and some special VIPs. So, all are welcome and there will be refreshments available after the Service and lots of information about the disaster itself.

The weeks running up to Christmas were mega busy and very cold for our fund-raising events, but certainly worth doing.

The station collections at Mile End brought in £436.62, at Stratford £458.75 and Bethnal Green £430.84. The Halloween night at King Edward memorial Gardens netted £24.38, the firework night £323.88, the Shoreditch Town Hall Design show £337.73, the Festive Fair at St. John on Bethnal Green Church forecourt £980 and West Ham football club £501.04. Added to this June Blackman’s farewell night at the Fountain pub raised £105 (the pub was closed down by the owners suddenly at the end of November sadly, after June & John had been there for 25 years and we wish them well in their enforced retirement).

Our grateful thanks go to everyone that put donations in our buckets, everyone who gave us the chance to collect at their venue or event, and to all our wonderful volunteers who helped out in very cold (and sometimes wet) conditions. We appreciate everyone’s help in those last frantic months and throughout last year.

As you probably know, we do not pay any expenses to anyone and none of us take any expenses out of the charity funds (not even the secretary) as we all pay our own travel, phone, postage, stationery, printing etc, out of our own pockets. This ensures that every penny raised goes towards building the Stairway to Heaven Memorial. So, we really do appreciate everyone’s efforts during 2012.

Now we look forward to 2013 with much excitement and hope we can raise the last of the money for the ‘stairway’ part to be added as soon as possible.

We still have some lovely calendars for sale. They will remind you about the Memorial Service on 3rd March. They cost £6 each and if you live in London Derek Spicer may be able to meet you with a copy to save postage. Please let us know if you would like a copy and we will try to arrange postage or delivery.
Sandra (Hon. Sec)

We also have 1 framed Arsenal shirt signed by 22 players and also a signed Arsenal football plus I signed Spurs shirt, so if anyone is keen to buy one for a present please get in touch for more details. If we don’t receive any bids we will put them on EBay in a month or two.

Don’t forget that if you wish to send flowers to anyone now or for Valentines Day or Mother’s Day please consider using Charity Flowers from Guernsey. The flowers are very reasonably priced and there is NO delivery charge. If you choose 'Stairway to Heaven Memorial' as your nominated charity when booking it doesn’t cost you any more, but we will receive 15% from each order. So it is a great help and doesn't cost you any more. Phone to order on 08705 300 600 or to see their selections.

posted: 16th November 2012

Wreath laying.

wreath laying

The first photograph shows Babs Clark, survivor of the disaster, laying a wreath on behalf of the charity.

wreath laying The other two pictures show children from Globe Road School laying flowers on the plinth in memory of previous pupils Ron Collett, Doreen Collett and Vera Trotter who died in the disaster.

wreath laying

posted: 13th October 2012

Charity Celebrity Concert.

The Charity Celebrity Concert in aid of the Bethnal Green Memorial on Saturday 6th October was a great success. It was held in St. John’s Church next to Bethnal Green underground station.

OBF banner shot

Our patron, Tommy Walsh was the compere for the evening and he made sure everything ran smoothly and with lots of humour. He started the proceedings explaining about the Bethnal Green tube disaster and the memorial that is being built just across the road from the church. He said that the money raised from this concert will be put towards the final ‘stairway’ part which is all that is outstanding from the project.

Photographs and full report on the Celebrity.

posted: 6th October 2012

Plinth in place.

Plinth hanging from crane.. At long last progress is being made and the plinth sections have been craned onto the site and all fixed together. So, it is beginning to look like the memorial at last. The plaques and bench still have to be fitted to it and then the paving surrounding before it receives its final polish and clean up.

We are delighted to see it in place and it is causing a lot of interest now that the top can be seen above the hoarding and railings.

posted: 5th October 2012

Book launch.

On Saturday afternoon at Bethnal Green library visitors were treated to a feast of delicious cakes with tea and coffee for the launch of Lynne Whelon's book "The Chicken Run". Lynne explaining her reasons for writing it and read a few passages to whet our appetite. The fictional story mostly revolves around some children living in East London in the 1950's when life was carefree enough for them to disappear for the day with some food and drink and return home in the evening in time for tea. There were no worries about playing in unsafe locations, kidnap, paedophiles or murderers then. Interwoven in the background of the story is a lady who had been involved in the Bethnal Green tube disaster and although she had not spoken about it for many years it affected her life and brought mystery to the plot.

Lynne very kindly donated some of the book sales money to our charity and organised a raffle at the library which raised £50.55 for us. The book is available to order in all good bookshops and on Amazon.

posted: 5th October 2012

London Requiem.

The Premier Performance of the London Requiem took place at Abney Park Cemetery on Saturday evening.

The Requiem, composed by Benjamin Till, included text found on gravestones across London. The music was provided by the Tamesis Quartet, Matt Whittington and Paul Kendall with singers and soloists from The Rebel Chorus. The live event took place outdoors in the beautiful setting of Abney Park Cemetery in North London, on a still, warm, evening, which made the music even more haunting. During the performance visual artist Gina Southgate produced a work of art in front of the audience.

At the end of the evening the audience were encouraged to take away one of