Work starts on memorial to victims of Bethnal Green tube disaster – but will it ever be finished?

Pic: Duncan Harris

After five years of campaigning, work finally begins today on a memorial to the 1943 Bethnal Green tube disaster in which 173 died.

But lack of funds means that the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust, who have campaigned for the project since 2007, are unsure whether it will be completed.

The memorial will remember those crushed to death on March 3 1943 at the stairs of the station when panic broke out following anti-aircraft rocket tests in nearby Victoria Park.  The incident was the largest loss of civilian life in Britain during World War Two.

The trust, mainly made up of families to the victims, have fund-raised for five years with support from the Mayor, local councillors and the community to build a memorial.

Sandra Scotting said the estimated total for the memorial is half a million pounds, and that approximately £100,000 is missing to build the stairs.

Derek Spicier, a trustee who lost a brother and sister in the disaster, said: “The people of Bethnal Green have been wonderful in supporting us and helping us raise the funds to build the foundations, plinth and landscaping. Now all we need is the rest of the money to be able to complete the ‘stairway’ part of the Memorial.”

Designed by local architect Harry Paticas, the memorial will have 173 cones of light symbolising the victims. The names and stories behind the victims will also be inscribed in a plinth, and the project is estimated to be finished within 3 months.

Sandra Scotting, honouary secretary of the trust, said she was delighted that building was underway, saying: “I feel I owe it to all my relatives and the other survivors to ensure it is not London’s forgotten disaster for much longer.”

She added: “It is especially emotional for all of us connected to people who died or survived the tragedy, particularly as Saturday will be the 69th anniversary of the disaster.”

Local councillors have organised a race on Saturday to raise the last money needed.

Amy Whitelock, labour councillor for Mile End and Globe Town is one of the runners. She said: “The Bethnal Green tube disaster left a deep scar across the community, so it’s important there’s a fitting memorial to remember those who tragically died or were injured 69 years ago.

“It’s great to see the foundations now being laid, but the Stairway to Heaven trust still need vital funds to complete the project.”

There will also be an anniversary memorial service on Sunday March 4 at 2pm at St. John on Bethnal Green Church.

To read more about the trust or donate go here.


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