Final push for Bethnal tube memorial fund

Pic: Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust

The families of 173 people killed at Bethnal Green tube station during World War Two are staging a last effort to raise money for a memorial before the disaster’s 70th anniversary.

The Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust will hold a fundraising event on Friday, August 31, at St John’s Church in Bethnal Green.

Work on the memorial began in March after five years of fundraising, but it now hangs in limbo due to a lack of funding.  The Trust, led by families of the victims, are hoping to raise £120,000 to complete the memorial in time for an official unveiling and dedication service on March 3, 2013.

Sandra Scotting, honorary secretary of the trust, said: ”All the survivors and the relatives of those who died, plus those involved in the rescue, are of course keen for the Memorial to be completed as soon as possible. It will help many of those who have still not been able to come to term with the trauma they suffered and to have some kind of closure.”

The disaster, in 1943, occurred when the noise of anti-aircraft rockets fired from nearby Victoria Park caused a panic at the stairs of the station, then in use as an air raid shelter. 173 men, women, and children were crushed to death. The largest loss of civilian life in Britain during World War Two.

Borough mayor Lutfur Rahman has pledged his support to the memorial, which will cost a total of £500,000.

Designed by local architect Harry Paticas, the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ will consist of a stairway representing the 19 steps on which the victims died. 173 cone shapes at the top of the stair will allow patterned light to play along the ground as the sun moves.

Scotting said construction had been delayed following lack of funding, the Olympics and bad weather conditions. The plinth and plaques listing the full name and ages of everyone that died, as well as individual plaques written by survivors relatives and emergency service personnel, are expected to be delivered in early September.

She said: “It is our hope that it will help new generations to understand the human tragedies that occur wherever conflicts happen in the world and that wars are very serious things and should be resisted as much as possible.”

The event, at St John’s Church at 7pm on Friday, August 31, will be attended by Cheryl Baker, formerly of 1981 Eurovision winners Bucks Fizz, and TV gardener Tommy Walsh.

Entitled ‘Jack The Ripper and the Bethnal Green Tube Disaster’, it will involve experts describing a possible connection between the disaster and the Victorian killer, who Scotting believes could have been among the victims.

To find out more about the trust, the event and to book tickets, visit their website.

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