- Tower Hamlets
A memorial to the 173 people who died on March 3, 1943 – 62 of them children – was unveiled to hundreds in east London following a service at St John at Bethnal Green church.
Yesterday marked the 70th anniversary of the Bethnal Green tube disaster – “the worst civilian disaster of World War II,” reported the BBC.
The disaster happened when people flooded the tube station upon hearing air raid sirens and were crushed in the panic. New anti-aircraft weapons were fired as a test, causing a panic.
Babette Clarke, 11 in 1943, was trying to get underground but missed the bus. She told the BBC: “As they went up they whistled like the bombs did as they came down and that’s what caused the pushing because people thought it was bombs coming down.”
Cheryl Baker, pop singer and TV presenter, read John Donne’s poem No Man is an Island at the service.
Father Alan Green presided over the service, stressing the importance of remembering the names of those who died 70 years ago. Due to a censorship on war-time reporting, the identities of the victims were not publicised at the time of the disaster.
He said: “The problem with the previous memorial and the cover up was the names were not publicly acknowledged so each year we have centred on reading out those names and lighting 173 candles which we place on the altar to mark those lives.”
There was a plaque placed at the station in the 1990s, but the first part of a new ‘Stairway to Heaven’ monument has now been completed in time for the anniversary.
Around £100,000 is still needed for the Bethnal Green Memorial Trust to add a canopy and complete the memorial.
Dr Toby Butler, from the University of East London, is collecting audio interviews from survivors, rescuers and family members to add to the monument.
He said to the BBC: “It’s going to be an incredibly important landmark in east London.”