Search

Alf at last meets relative of woman who saved his life in 1943

PUBLISHED: 22:04 05 May 2009 | UPDATED: 14:20 05 October 2010

Suzanne meets Alf...inset: Maud Chumbley who saved Alf as a boy

Suzanne meets Alf...inset: Maud Chumbley who saved Alf as a boy

Carmen Valino

ALF Morris had an emotional day on Saturday—the first time he had met a relative of the woman who saved his life 66 years ago. He owes his life to Maud Chumbley, an air-raid warden who pulled him clear from the stampede just in time

By Mike Brooke

ALF Morris had an emotional day on Saturday—the first time he had met a relative of the woman who saved his life 66 years ago.

Alf, now 79, was only 13 when he was pulled clear from the stampeded which killed 173 men, women and children at the unfinished Bethnal Green tube station being used as a wartime air-raid shelter in London’s heavily-bombed East End.

He was one of the few survivors, after witnessing school friends and neighbours—some whole families—being crushed to death on the staircase leading down to the shelter during a mistaken air raid alert in March, 1943.

OWES LIFE TO MAUD

He owes his life to Maud Chumbley, an East End air-raid warden in the Second World War who pulled him clear from the stampede just in time.

Alf has been looking for her family for years. It was only when he appeared in a national newspaper last week that Suzanne Lane realised the ARP warden he spoke of was her later grandmother.

She contacted the Stairway to Heaven trust which is raising funds for a permanent memorial in Bethnal Green Gardens.

Suzanne travelled from her Berkshire home on Saturday to meet Alf at Nico’s cafe, just a few yards from the station entrance where Britain’s worst wartime civilian disaster struck.

SURVIVING DISASTER

“I tried to keep calm when I met Suzanne,” Alf admitted afterwards. “But that sort of thing gets at you.

“When you survive something like that disaster, to meet a relative of the person who saved your life after 66 years is very emotional.”

Suzanne brought along a photograph of her grandmother to show Alf and his wife Vera.

Alf became tearful immediately saw it when he recognised the woman in the photo.

It was also emotional for Vera, who also grew up in Bethnal Green like Alf. She remembers Maud often standing at the tube station entrance looking stern, ushering people into the shelter during air raids.

Maud Chumbley died 50 years ago. Now Alf wants to lay flowers on her grave—as a gesture of thanks for saving his life in 1943.

+++


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the East London Advertiser. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the East London Advertiser