Hornchurch man’s fight to honour disaster victims

IT may be 68 years ago but for Alf Morris the pain and fear are still raw.

Alf, 81, is a survivor of the worst civilian disaster of World War Two – and is urging people to support a memorial to commemorate the dead ahead of the anniversary next month.

Alf was 13 when he sought refuge in Bethnal Green Tube Station, east London, on March 3 1943, during an apparent Nazi air strike when it is thought a young mum carrying a baby tripped at the bottom of the wet station stairs setting off a human domino effect of bodies in motion.

The former scrap merchant, who lives in Grosvenor Drive, Hornchurch, was plucked to safety by his hair by air raid heroine, Maude Chumbley.

It saved him from the tragedy which claimed more than 170 lives – mainly woman and children.

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Alf, is one of the founders of the charity Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust, which is raising money for a lasting memorial.

He said: “I can remember it like it happened last night. I was pushed to the left and was being crushed and if it wasn’t for Mrs Chumbley, I wouldn’t be here today. It was utterly terrifying.”

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Campaigners have raised �230,000 of the �530,000 needed for the memorial and are appealing for donations.

“The tragedy was covered up at the time for good reason – to keep up morale during the war – but I think the authorities should recognise what happened and pay for the memorial.”

Hackney Council has already handed over �100,000 to the fund. To contribute go to www.stairwaytoheavenmemorial.org, or contact Alf on 01708 444154

To mark the anniversary, novelist Jessica Francis Kane, and London Transport Museum curator David Bownes, will explore – through fact and fiction – the events that surround the disaster during a talk on Tuesday, March 8.

Jessica, who has penned The Report about the incident, will give readings from her book and David will present a historical overview of Tube sheltering in London and Bethnal Green Station.

The talk, which takes place at the London Transport Museum, Covent Garden Piazza, west London, at 6.30pm, is organised as part of the Under Attack: London, Coventry and Dresden exhibition.

Tickets cost �8 adults; �6 senior citizens and �4 students and can be reserved in advance by calling 020 7565 7298.

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