Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust
Registered Charity Number 1118618
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
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.
posted: 18th February 2015.
2015 Memorial Service
The Memorial Service to mark the 72nd anniversary of the Bethnal Green tube disaster will take place on Sunday 1st March at 2pm at St. John on BethnalGreenChurch (next to Bethnal Green tube station).
After the Service we will parade across the road to lay wreaths and flowers before returning to the church where refreshments will be available and an exhibition about the disaster on display.
Everyone is welcome to attend the Service and you are welcome to bring along flowers to put on the memorial if you would like to afterwards. We look forward to meeting many of you there.
posted: 24th November 2014.
Please sponsor a conical
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 put a list up on our website soon 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 £50,000 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.