Tommy Walsh lays wreath to Bethnal Green’s wartime air-raid disaster

TV presenter Tommy Walsh led this year’s wreath-laying in the East End to the memory of those killed in Britain’s worst wartime civilian disaster.

He led survivors at the ceremony to remember the tragedy 68 years ago when 173 men, women and children were crushed to death in a stampede into a public shelter at Bethnal Green during a false air-raid alert.

Tommy is the new patron of the charity raising funds for a permanent memorial at Bethnal Green Gardens, above the entrance to the Underground station in Roman Road which was being used as an air-raid shelter during the war, before the Central Line extension was completed.

Yesterday’s memorial at St John’s Church was packed with survivors and relatives of those who perished on March 3, 1943.

The Stairway to Heaven trust, which is raising funds for a permanent memorial, learned at the weekend that Tower Hamlets council is releasing the �100,000 it pledged two years ago towards it.

The trust has more than matched it with �125,000, but still needs another �150,000 to reach its target before the foundations can be laid in late summer. They hope to have it ready by summer 2012.