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Alf lays wreath for 1943 air-raid warden who saved his life

PUBLISHED: 12:00 18 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:37 05 October 2010

Alf... at the grave of Maud (inset)

Alf... at the grave of Maud (inset)

ALF Morris weeps as he lays a wreath at the grave of a woman he met only once—and that was 67 years ago. The woman was the wartime ARP warden who saved his life in the East End of London during an air-raid alert

By Mike Brooke

ALF Morris weeps as he lays a wreath at the grave of a woman he met only once—and that was 67 years ago.

The woman was the wartime ARP warden who saved his life in the East End of London during an air-raid alert.

She managed to pull him from a stampede which killed 173 men, women and children in Britain’s worst civilian wartime disaster at an air-raid shelter in Bethnal Green on March 3, 1943.

It was caused by a panicking crowd when anti-aircraft gunfire shook the district and people rushed for the shelter. A woman tripped on the stairs and the crowd fell on top of her.

Alf was 13 at the time when he was caught up in the crush, but warden Maud Chumbley got him clear in time.

He never knew who she was for years until a chance meeting with a woman last year who recalled her grandmother having saved a little boy in the 1943 tragedy.

Alf is a campaigner for a memorial to be erected. Maud’s granddaughter read about Alf and the two met up at an East End cafe. She told him Maud had since died and where she was buried.

Alf, now a 79, finally got to visit Maud’s grave in East London this week.

“I laid the wreath and thanked her for my life,” Alf told the East London Advertiser. “It was emotional. If it hadn’t been for her, I would have been crushed to death.

“I stood at Maud’s grave and just said God bless you. Thanks for my life.”

Alf is still haunted by his childhood memories of March 3, 1943.

“It was terrible that night,” he recalls. “She pulled me clear, put me on the landing at the bottom of the stairs, put her finger in my face and told me to go down to the shelter and say nothing of what happened.

“I was so terrified and cried. I ran down to the shelter. They asked me why I was crying, and I was too terrified to tell them.

“But I never forgot what she did for me that night.”

Alf’s wreath-laying was filmed by a BBC crew for the One Show being shown on the 67th anniversary of the disaster on March 3.


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