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East End remembers its civilian dead from 1943 air-raid disaster

PUBLISHED: 08:38 04 March 2009 | UPDATED: 14:08 05 October 2010

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THAT poignant moment arrived again when London’s East End remembered those who died in Britain’s worst wartime civilian disaster 66 years ago. Relatives and survivors of the 173 men, women and children killed in the stampeded during an air-raid alert in Bethnal Green in 1943 returned to pay homage

ABOVE: Survivor Alf Morris (top) returns to the scene where he was saved 66 years before... and (above) a London fireman lays a wreath in memory of those who died in 1943

BELOW: Five London cockney Pearlie kings pay homage to the East Enders who perished that day...

By Mike Brooke

THAT poignant moment arrived again when London’s East End remembered those who died in Britain’s worst wartime civilian disaster 66 years ago.

Relatives and survivors of the 173 men, women and children killed in the stampeded during an air-raid alert in Bethnal Green in March, 1943, returned this week to pay homage.

They packed a memorial service at St John on Bethnal Green church before crossing the road to lay wreaths and flowers at the staircase leading down to the Underground station which was used as an air-raid shelter during the Second World War when a panicking crowd ran for cover—and disaster struck.

MEMORIAL FUND

Campaigners are running a £600,000 fund for a permanent memorial.

Their campaign trust treasurer Derek Spicer laid a wreath in memory of his brother and sister who both perished as children in the stampede.

It was also a tearful, emotional moment for 79-year-old pensioner Alf Morris, now living in Hornchurch, who as a boy of 13 was saved when an air-raid warden pulled him clear of the crush.

Among those laying wreathes were representatives of the fire service which had helped in the rescue of the injured and recovery of bodies on that fateful spring evening 66 years before.

The memorial service earlier was led by The Rev Alan Green and included a prayer and blessing from Rabbi Amanda Golby who comforted many Jewish relatives of those who died.

Memorial trust secretary Sandra Scotting appealed for businesses and companies to help sponsor the planned memorial—so that the 173 lives lost that day in 1943 won’t be London’s forgotten disaster’ of the war.


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