Bethnal Green tube disaster memorial is a ‘dream come true’ for Havering survivors

It was an emotional moment for Havering survivors of the Bethnal Green tube disaster on Thursday as construction work on a memorial began.

Almost 70 years after 173 people tragically lost their lives in the worst civilian disaster of the Second World War, the first building works on a memorial finally took place.

Victims’ relatives, survivors, Ground Force TV star Tommy Walsh, Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman and MP Rushanara Ali helped mark the breakthrough ‘dig’ beside Bethnal Green tube.

For Hornchurch survivor Alf Morris, 82, it was a “dream come true.”

Alf, who as a 13-year-old was plucked from the fatal stampede by a female air raid warden, said: “Around six years ago myself and architect Harry Paticus called for people to support a memorial. Over 200 people met at St John’s Church in Bethnal Green saying they wanted it. It’s very dear to me to see this charity take shape.”

The memorial - which will take around 3 months to complete and has so far cost just under �500,000 - includes plaques detailing survivors’ stories. It is hoped another �50,000 will be raised to build an inverted stairwell featuring the names of victims.

Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust secretary and trustee, Sandra Scotting, thanked local businesses and volunteers who helped halve construction costs. Sandra, whose mother and aunt survived the disaster, added: “This is a very proud day but we are still looking for donors to help us build the stairway part of the memorial.

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“This disaster wiped out a whole generation of children in the area and it needs to be remembered.”

The tube had been used as an air raid shelter when on March 3, 1943, someone tripped on the stairs and panic broke out. 173 people died in the crush.

Many of the survivors and relatives now live in Havering and Sandra called on them to come forward and contact Derek Spicer on 07722162168.

The 69th anniversary of the disaster will be held at St John on Bethnal Green Church this Sunday March 4 at 2pm.