Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust
Registered Charity Number 1118618
Artists impression of the proposed memorial
|Bethnal Green Tube Disaster 1943. |
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: 6th September 2016.
The wonderful 'Friends of Victoria Park' arranged an afternoon of music at
the bandstand so we could raise some funds for the Bethnal Green Memorial on
Two bands played a variety of music all afternoon, read more ...
posted: 9th September 2016.
Original commemorative plaque recovered.
Melissa John holds the plaque that was originally placed over the station
entrance stairs where everyone died in the Bethnal Green tube shelter
The Mayor of Tower Hamlets at the time, Kofi Appiah, dedicated the
plaque and put it in place above the stairs after a Memorial Service on the
50th anniversary of the disaster. It was lost by Transport for London when
the station was refurbished, but has since turned up at an auction house in
Kent where it was purchased by the family of one of our victims before being
donated to our charity.
Melissa has donated a substantial amount of money to
the charity to obtain the plaque and plans to display it in her office in
London so that it can be seen by lots more people.
posted: 25th June 2016.
Memorial progress report.
These photos show us cleaning up the paving around the memorial.
go to Isabel & Len who have been working hard to keep the memorial clean &
tidy and renew the wreaths regularly while we are waiting to finish the
We are still waiting patiently for Tower Hamlets Council to sign the legal
agreement so we can add the final part of the memorial. The issues with
insurance and legal agreements have been rumbling on for months now and we
hope it can be resolved very soon otherwise the memorial will not be
completed this year. This is all that is holding it up.
In the meantime we know that the teak is of the highest standard and has
been tested as being even stronger than we need. We are just waiting for the
local Council to give us the go-ahead so we can build the final part - the
posted: 4th May 2016.
Tottenham Hotspur FC 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:
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.
THE MEMORIAL SERVICE TO MARK THE 73rd ANNIVERSARY OF THE BETHNAL GREEN TUBE SHELTER DISASTER.
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.
SURVIVOR BEING FILMED FOR AMERICAN TV.
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.
Brenda Birch has provided us with an evocative recollection of her cousin Stella Riddell, which can be viewed
posted: 6th January 2016.
Teak sections delivered.
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
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.
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.
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 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
The pupils in Year 5 were so attentive and asked very sensible questions.
They have also written some lovely thank-you letters.
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
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.
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.
Hon. Sec: email email@example.com
here for photographs of the football and tee shirts.
posted: 18th November 2015.
Teak order nearing shipment date.
posted: 12th November 2015.
Schools visit on Remembrance Day
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.
story and photographs.
posted: 10th November 2015.
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 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
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
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.
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!
Well done lads and thanks a million. Hope you have recovered now.
posted: 23rd April 2015.
Raju Vaidyanathan's last Marathon.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Photographs of the service will follow soon.