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Images of 1943 wartime disaster victims are projected onto Bethnal Green’s Stairway to Heaven memorial

PUBLISHED: 12:00 08 March 2018 | UPDATED: 14:19 08 March 2018

Images of 1943 victims projected onto Bethnal Green's Stairway to Heaven memorial. Picture source: Stairway to Heaven Trust.

Images of 1943 victims projected onto Bethnal Green's Stairway to Heaven memorial. Picture source: Stairway to Heaven Trust.

SHM Trust

Images of victims killed in Britain’s worst wartime civilian disaster 75 years ago are being projected onto the Stairway to Heaven Memorial at Bethnal Green each night this week for the first time.

Projected image of 15-year-old Lilian Sceats, from Roman Road, who died in the 1943 disaster. Picture source: Stairway to Heaven Trust.Projected image of 15-year-old Lilian Sceats, from Roman Road, who died in the 1943 disaster. Picture source: Stairway to Heaven Trust.

The images were taken from snapshots in family albums belonging to relatives and descendants of some of the 173 men, women and children crushed to death during a false air-raid alert on the night of March 3, 1943.

The victims were heading into the half-built tube station that was being used as a public air-raid shelter when a woman tripped on the narrow, unlit staircase and the surging crowd fell on top of her.

The images were projected onto the teak memorial at Bethnal Green Gardens to mark Sunday’s 75th anniversary of the disaster.

Snaps of victims which were used to project images onto the Stairway to Heaven memorial. Picture: Mike BrookeSnaps of victims which were used to project images onto the Stairway to Heaven memorial. Picture: Mike Brooke

The £600,000 memorial was unveiled in December after a 10-year fundraising campaign by volunteers from the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust.

“Our crowdfunding scheme has finally reached its target,” memorial trust secretary Sandra Scotting told the East London Advertiser.

“So we are projecting the photos of the victims onto the memorial every evening this week until Friday to mark the 75th anniversary.

Image of eight-year-old Ronald Collett, from Stainsbury Street, died in the 1943 disaster. Picture source: Stairway to Heaven Trust.Image of eight-year-old Ronald Collett, from Stainsbury Street, died in the 1943 disaster. Picture source: Stairway to Heaven Trust.

“This is a way to remember the victims on this special anniversary week.”

The trust has gathered in as many photos as possible, including snapshots going back even further than 75 years ago, some taken in the 1920s and 30s.

The week-long project follows last Sunday’s service across the road at St John on Bethnal Green parish church, led by the rector Alan Green who chairs Tower Hamlets Interfaith Forum.

Image of two-year-old Barry Seabrooke, from Gretton House Buildings, died in the 1943 disaster. Picture source: Stairway to Heaven Trust.Image of two-year-old Barry Seabrooke, from Gretton House Buildings, died in the 1943 disaster. Picture source: Stairway to Heaven Trust.

The names of every victim, young and old, were recited with a candle lit for each of them. It was followed by a play about the disaster performed in the church crypt.

Survivors and relatives attending the annual service for the past seven decades have become fewer and fewer with the passing of time.

A sad note this year was the loss of Dr June Martin who died last month aged 102.

Dr Joan Martin cuts the ribbon at Stairway to Heaven memorial unveiling in December 2017. Picture: Mike BrookeDr Joan Martin cuts the ribbon at Stairway to Heaven memorial unveiling in December 2017. Picture: Mike Brooke

She was the doctor on duty at the Children’s Hospital in Hackney Road the night of the disaster when many of the injured and some of the bodies of those who died were brought in.

Dr Martin had been attending the service every year and was guest of honour at December’s unveiling.

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