On 3rd March 1943, following the sounding of the air raid sirens in Bethnal Green, the local population began to move towards the underground (the station was not in operation at this time and was being used as an air raid shelter). As they descended the stairs in the rain and poor light, a woman slipped, creating a blockage at the entrance to the tube. After hearing the unexpected and terrifying salvo of rockets fired by British Forces in Victoria Park the crowd surged forward crushing the people waiting on the stairs. 173 children, women and men died in the stair void. Many more were injured and one East London family lost six members. It was the worst civilian disaster of the Second World War.

Two young architects regularly used the underground station to go to work and noticed the small commemorative plaque above the stairs where the tragedy occurred and decided to find out more. Harry Patticas and Jens Borstlemann wanted to create a fitting memorial to the 173 people who died that evening. They have therefore designed a massive bronze cast of the staircase, which will appear to float alongside the stairs where the people actually died, with 173 conicals that will allow light to shine through to represent those who lost their lives. The memorial will vividly describe the historical facts of the Bethnal Green tragedy and will provide shelter form the rain as well as illumination for people entering or exiting the station. It will create a landmark at an important junction on an Olympic Route.

A committee of 5 people has been formed to run the ‘Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust’ charity. They are:

Alf Morris – Founder. A survivor of the disaster (read his story here) who has campaigned tirelessly for a lasting memorial to those who died.

Alf Morris at Bethnal Green tube station.

Sandra Scotting – Secretary.  Sandra’s grandmother and cousin were killed and her mother and aunt injured in the tragedy (read their story on the ‘Individual Stories’ page). Derek Spicer (fund-raising coordinator) whose sister and brother were killed; Lee Scotting (accountant) and Rev. Alan Green (pastoral advisor), vicar of St. John’s Church, Bethnal Green, next door to the underground station (the Church was used as a mortuary at the time of the tragedy). The charity was registered on 30th March 2007 a bank account has been set up for donations and over 1,700 signatures were obtained on a petition for the memorial to go ahead. The difficult part now is to raise the funds of approximately £500,000 to design and erect the memorial. Donations are therefore urgently required.

The Charity’s aim is to build a memorial to the memory of the 173 people of the community of Bethnal Green who lost their lives that day on the stairway leading to Bethnal Green underground station, as well as to the survivors, many of whom lost friends and family in the disaster. In addition, the memorial will remember the Emergency Services, the firemen, policeman, ambulance, wardens, clergy and hospital staff who helped the injured. The charity will raise the funds required to design, build and maintain the memorial which, it is hoped it will be unveiled as soon as possible, bearing in mind that time is not on the side of the survivors.

On-line / credit card

By cheque
Please make your cheques payable to “Stairway To Heaven Memorial Trust” and send them to:

Derek Spicer
28 Priory Close
Pilgrims Hatch
Brentwood Essex
CM15 9PZ

For further details call 07722 162 168 or email

Registered Charity Number 1118618

© 2018 Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust. All rights reserved.