Today the memorial to the victims of the Bethnal Green tube disaster marked the 70th anniversary of the tragedy. Named the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ the memorial is actually unfinished requiring further funds to complete. The local community have been campaigning and fundraising for some time to make a lasting tribute to the 173 people who died in the worst civilian disaster of the second world war.
In 1943 set against the backdrop of war and the threat of bombardment from the air, the east end must have been a tense place to live with tube stations often serving as makeshift air raid shelters.
It was on a wet 3 March 1943, when, terrified by what people thought was a German attack, panic ensued when people started rushing to the station. The rush led to a crush which led to the loss of life. The attack itself never materialised as the attack people thought they heard was actually the testing of new anti aircraft rockets in Victoria Park.
It was a disaster on an enormous scale yet in order to maintain wartime morale, was covered up as officials worried that it would further upset an already war weary nation.
Now, on the 70th anniversary of the disaster, Bethnal Green finally has a tribute which will no doubt become a focal point of remembrance. Not only for the survivors but also for the many people who want to acknowledge this, the largest loss of civilian life in any one incident during world war two.
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