UKBD TIMES DESK:
Seventy-four years on, the survivors of WW2’s worst civilian disaster were finally honoured with the unveiling of a unique memorial at the side of Bethnal Green tube station, where 173 people were crushed to death and over 90 injured on 3rd March 1943.
It’s taken a decade of energetic fundraising by the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust to raise sufficient funds to erect a fitting memorial to mark the colossal loss of life on that dark, wet, wartime night. The charity was praised for their determination to complete the memorial despite several set-backs from red tape, lack of funds and various building hiccups (the company that built the first part of the memorial went into Administration just as the final part was ready to be completed).
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was a very emotional event. Memorial designer and architect, Harry Paticas, handed the scissors to survivor Alf Morris and Joan Martin MBE, the 102 year old doctor who was on duty at the Queen Elizabeth Children’s Hospital on the night of the disaster. They were surrounded by a several survivors, watched by local MP Rushanara Ali, The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs. Following the ribbon cutting, a group photo was taken of the survivors, Dr. Joan and committee members of the charity. This included patrons Tommy Walsh, who had helped keep building costs down and Harry Harris from SKY TV, plus Len Goodman (Strictly Come Dancing judge) whose cousin had died in the disaster. Also, present at the event was Anne Jackson and Kofi Appiah, former Mayors of LBTH, and Denise Jones who had been the Leader of the Council in 2006 when the idea of a Memorial was first discussed by survivors and victims’ relatives.
Fr. Alan Green, Rector of St. John on Bethnal Green Church, said he was conducting the blessing of the Memorial on behalf of people of all Faiths and of none. Those that had died that night, along with the survivors, the injured and the Emergency Services personnel who suffered so much trauma pulling the living and the dead out from the crush. will now be remembered and honoured by future generations.
The impressive sustainable teak Memorial will be a new landmark in Bethnal Green, one that local people can be justly proud of.
Mayor John Biggs and Rushanara Ali praised the charity members for their fortitude in pressing on with the project and Ms. Ali also singled out praise for the architect
Harry Paticas for producing this impressive work of art. Mayor Biggs also highlighted the government neglect at the time of the disaster, similarly to present
tragedies, like Hillsborough and Grenfell Towers. He continued: “Today is a special day for Bethnal Green as we honour those who died that night in March 1943. I commend the dedication the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust have shown in making this happen, I know it has been a long process and I’m delighted to see this unveiled. We see today a fitting and thoughtfully designed memorial, which has been built in part using sustainable and recycled materials. It is a reminder of the great sacrifices made in the war and the resilience of the East End.”
Mayor Sadiq Khan said that this was a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. It was a night that claimed the futures of 173 innocent Londoners and it is only right that these men, women and children are remembered with this beautiful memorial. The Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust and all those involved in fundraising have done a fantastic job in creating this fitting monument and ensuring that their memories live on.”