Stairway to Heaven
As you leave Bethnal Green tube station in London's East End, there's a small plaque marking the site of the worst civilian disaster of the Second World War. 173 people were killed there on 3rd March 1943. The station was being used as an air raid shelter. But it wasn't enemy action which led to the loss of life. A new form of anti-aircraft weapon was being used nearby, it seems, and that triggered a crowd surge - hundreds were trapped and crushed.
You may have heard little about the tragedy. At the time, a desire not to harm morale contributed to the downplaying of the incident. After the war, this was widely seen as a private and local tragedy. There are still a few survivors of the disaster, and there's also an increasingly active local group seeking to build a memorial.
The project is to build a Stairway to Heaven Memorial - an inverted flight of stairs above the entrance to the stairwell. There's a whole range of events being organised to raise money. and earlier this year Sean Dettman wrote a detailed account of the tragedy and the response to it - The Bethnal Green Tube Shelter Disaster of 1943: A Stairway to Heaven, published by the East London History Society.
We need to honour and memorialise our past.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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