Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust
Registered Charity Number 1118618
Artists impression of the proposed memorial
|Bethnal Green Tube Disaster 1943. |
March 1943 a crowd of people entered Bethnal Green tube station which was
used at the time as an air-raid shelter. After the searchlights went on and
an anti-aircraft battery a few hundred yards away in Victoria Park launched
a salvo of a new type of anti-aircraft rockets the crowd surged forward.
Someone tripped on the stairs causing many others to fall. 300 people were
crushed into the stairwell within a few seconds, 173 of them died and over
90 were injured. The worst civilian disaster of the 2nd World War.
In a book published last year we recently discovered that there was also a
government cover-up after the Bethnal Green tube shelter disaster.
Rick Fountain's book 'Mr. Morrison's Conjuring Tricks' sets out the evidence
that in 1941 (so, two years before the disaster) Bethnal Green Council had
written to the government asking for permission to alter the station
entrance and make it safer if a lot of people wanted to use it. The
Government department refused and the Borough Engineer wrote a stronger
worded letter explaining that the entrance and stairway needed several
measures to make them safer. Again the government refused permission. The
Council's borough engineer wrote a third time to plead for permission to
alter the entrance, but was once more refused.
The day after the disaster all these measures sought by the Council were put
in place. However, Bethnal Green Council was made to keep their earlier
letters secret, under the Official Secrets Act. The Council was therefore
made to take the blame. Statements given in Parliament suggested that the
victims were to blame. This ensured the event was kept as secret as
possible. This was partially to prevent the enemy using it for propaganda
purposes, but apparently it also saved the Home Secretary of the day,
Herbert Morrison, from having to resign. The Mayor of Bethnal Green was not
allowed to defend herself and was largely blamed for the tragedy.
The public enquiry, and the summing-up by the judge in the one court case
that followed, largely agreed that there had been no panic on the part of
the victims so they were not to blame. The final statement about the enquiry
was read out in Parliament by another MP as Herbert Morrison had a cold on
that day. So no questions could be asked. It was the Hillsborough of its
The memorial in spring 2014
We have already built two thirds of the memorial now
all we need to do is raise the money to complete the 'stairway' on the top.
Details of how to donate to the trust are given at the bottom of this
page and on the 'Appeal / Donations' page. If you have any additional fund
raising ideas please let us know.
Copyright © Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust. All rights reserved.
posted: 20th February 2018.
75th anniversary Memorial Service.
Please don’t forget the 75th anniversary Memorial Service is on Sunday 4th
March at 2pm at St. John’s Church (opposite the Memorial). All are welcome
but please make sure your wreaths and flowers do not have any metal or sharp
points on them as this is staining the Memorial and costs us money to remove
it. If any floral tributes containing metal are left at the Memorial they
will have to be moved to the railings.
posted: 22nd December 2017.
Unveiling of the Memorial.
The unveiling of The Bethnal Green tube disaster Memorial took place on Sunday 17th December.
It was organised at fairly short notice once the work was completed so that the survivors and also Joan Martin MBE, the doctor on duty the night of the disaster (who is 102 years old) could enjoy the event while they are still well enough to attend.
We were lucky to have 11 survivors there on the day and they helped Alf Morris and Joan Martin to cut the ribbon.
Also present were the local MP Rushanara Ali, Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.
They all made speeches praising the unique memorial and the architect, Harry Paticas, who designed it, as well as the committee of the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust and everyone that had contributed to the funds to help build it despite red tape set-backs, etc.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “The disaster was a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. It was a night that claimed the futures of 173 innocent Londoners and it’s 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.”
Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs said: ‘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.”
Local MP Rushanara Ali also praised our architect Harry Paticas for his hard work and dedication in ensuring this unique memorial will honour all those involved in the disaster, despite little remuneration. Fr. Alan Green, Rector of St. John on Bethnal Green Church blessed the memorial on behalf of all the victims, whatever their Faith or none.
Also present was our wonderful patron, Tommy Walsh, who had helped us to reduce the cost of the memorial so much over the last 10 years. Also Harry Harris and Len Goodman were there to praise the memorial that will at last remember what happened on that dark, wet, wartime night.
Approximately 300 people were present to witness the unveiling and many then went on to Bethnal Green library for refreshments provided by Starbucks. The hot drinks and food were very welcome on such a cold day. Tower Hamlets Council had very kindly allowed us to use the library so everyone had somewhere close and warm to go back to after the unveiling. They could then chat and connect with other family members or survivors. Our building company Coniston are also to be thanked for the hard work they put into completing the Memorial on time and for going above and beyond in their efforts to ensure it looked so good on the day.
We have to add our special thanks to designer/architect Harry Paticas who has worked tireless to ensure the Memorial is such a fitting legacy to the worst civilian disaster of WW2. It now honours all those who died on 3rd March 1943, as well as the survivors, injured and rescuers who were traumatised by their experience. His hard work and attention to detail has been amazing over the last 10 years to chase and cajole people and companies and to help keep the prices down. It was incredible to see people’s reaction as they saw for the first time the newly uncovered top part, made of sustainable teak. It can be seen all around that busy junction that has always been known as the Salmon & Ball, and might now be known as the Bethnal Green Memorial junction instead.
Hopefully the lawn and garden will recover soon and we will ensure it will be looking good for the 75th anniversary Memorial Service on 4th March next year. We hope that those that could not join us last Sunday and many more people who were unable to get tickets for the event will be there to share this special anniversary and to celebrate the completion of this very unique memorial at last.
Here is a news video of the event
posted: 22nd December 2015.
Good news to finish the year.
At long last we have some good news to finish the year. The teak that will
be used to complete the final part of the memorial (the 'stairway') is
finally on its way to the UK. After a number of frustrating delays the ship
containing the teak will dock at the end of December. Then once the various
UK manufacturers give us dates and timings we will have a better idea when
it will be finished. We will obviously keep you updated on the progress
Please note that the Memorial Service to mark the 73rd anniversary of the
Bethnal Green tube shelter disaster will take place on Sunday 6th March at
2pm at St. John on Bethnal Green Church (next to Bethnal Green underground
station). All are welcome to attend and bring along flowers and wreaths to
lay on the Memorial after the Service. But please make sure there are no
metal parts to the wreaths or flowers as they stain the plinth and it is
difficult to get the brown marks off.
Our final fund-raising event of 2015 was the Arsenal football memorabilia
raffle. The draw for this was kindly conducted by Bristol Rovers manager,
Darrell Clarke, at the Holiday Inn Hotel, Brentwood, on 19th December. The
four winners have now been notified and we are extremely grateful to
everyone that took part and helped us raise £625.
As you can see from the photos Darrell Clarke helped our charity chairman,
Mike Pattison, with the draw and then our treasurer, Derek Spicer, had his
photo taken with the Bristol Rovers team.
Darrell kindly agreed to pick the
winning tickets after Derek spotted him and the team in the hotel lobby.
They agreed to take a break from their team talk to help us out.
posted: 1st February 2016.
Dr. Joan's 100th birthday party.
Dr. Joan Martin MBE celebrated her 100th birthday in November. Joan was the
doctor on duty in A & E on the night of the disaster at the Queen Elizabeth
Children's Hospital in Hackney Road.
Joan's story appears on the 'individual
story' page of this website.
You can also view some photographs taken at Dr Joan's party.
Joan has been a wonderful inspiration for us. Apart from being a doctor she
travelled the world advocating the Halliwick Concept of swimming for the
disabled. She devoted her life to helping disabled children and, having
become a Girl Guide at the age of 13, she went on to become a Guide Training
Advisor for England. She has had a very colourful life. She has attended all
our Memorial Services and it was a pleasure to see her with about 200 of her
friends at the party and to wish her a very happy birthday and many more.
posted: 22nd December 2015.
The Hague Primary School talk.
Survivor Babs Clark gave a talk about the Bethnal Green tube disaster, along
with the charity’s secretary Sandra Scotting, to The Hague primary school in
The pupils in Year 5 were so attentive and asked very sensible questions.
They have also written some lovely thank-you letters.
Their teacher said that the children have a much better sense of the history
of Bethnal Green and were really moved by the story of all the people who
died. As one child said 'It is unbelievable to think that that happened
We certainly enjoyed visiting the school and meeting all the children. They
always make us so welcome.
posted: 1st November 2015.
Win signed Arsenal football and tee shirts.
We are organizing a raffle for a signed Arsenal football and signed Arsenal
football shirts to raise some money for the last of our Bethnal Green tube
disaster memorial project to be finished.
For each £10 donated on our website we will put your name in a hat and draw
out the winners before Christmas.
Please make your donation/s on this page
by clicking on the 'donate now' button above. Then email the secretary (see
below) to confirm how many chances you have donated for. We will also need
your phone number to contact you when we make the draw so you can let us
know which of the items you would like to have. We will not keep these phone
numbers after the event.
You need to make your donations by the 8th December at the latest please.
Hon. Sec: email email@example.com
here for photographs of the football and tee shirts.
posted: 18th November 2015.
Teak order nearing shipment date.
posted: 12th November 2015.
Schools visit on Remembrance Day
Pupils from Morpeth School and Globe Road Primary School visited our
Memorial on Monday 9th November to lay wreaths and flowers in memory of
their former pupils that died in the Bethnal Green tube shelter disaster.
story and photographs.
posted: 10th November 2015.
Please sponsor a conical
Can you help us to finish the partially built Bethnal Green tube disaster
memorial? We are asking individuals and businesses to sponsor one of the
173 conicals for £200 each. The conicals will be sited in the roof of the
‘stairway’ that will go on top of the existing memorial plinth. They will be
all different shapes and sizes to represent the victims whose ages range
from 5 months to 78 years old.
Please let us know who you would like to sponsor a conical in memory of, and
we will add this to the list on our website,
with the victims’ names and the sponsors at the side of them. This matter is
urgent as we want the memorial completed before we lose any more of our
survivors. We need to raise just £5,000 more to finish it, so can you help
us do that quickly now?
Sunlight will shine through the conicals onto the paving below. The surname
of all the victims will be carved in large letters around the sides of the
teak ‘stairway’ so they can be seen all round that busy junction.
For more information please call our charity office on 01474 702513.
posted: 15th July 2015.
Schools pack and audio trail
On Thursday 9th July, despite the tube strike in London, the University of
East London organised a launch at the side of the Memorial. This was to
announce their schools pack which will be sent to all schools that would
like to learn about the tube disaster. They also launched a new plaque close
to the memorial, on the railings looking down towards the stairway on which
everyone died. This plaque explains how to download the memory-scape audio
trail to listen to when walking around the memorial. You can download the
APP or you can hire audio units from the library nearby, but at present that
is closed for refurbishment.
Harry Paticas, an architect from Arboreal Architecture, had worked hard to produce the plaque
so it is in keeping with the memorial – in the same unique Bethnal Green
font. He unveiled the plaque with our patron, Tommy Walsh.
Dr. Toby Butler, from the Raphael Samuel History Department of the
University of East London, had applied to the Heritage Lottery and obtained
a grant to undertake the historical work involved with the disaster records.
This allowed him, along with a team of wonderful volunteers and staff, over
the last 2 years recording the memories of our survivors, relatives of the
victims, rescuers and anyone that witnessed the disaster in one way or
These recordings are vital for future generations to know what happened on
that fateful night and afterwards. To have this historical gem of recordings
has been something that we would never have been able to do ourselves, so we
are extremely grateful to all of those that have been involved from the
University of East London in the Bethnal Green Memorial Project and of
course to the Heritage Lottery for the grant for them to do this.
Extracts have been incorporated into the memory-scape audio trail so you
will be able to listen to them when walking around the memorial. Tommy Walsh
did the voice-over for the trail which gives it the authentic cockney
background to the memories.
posted: 8th July 2015.
Ben Nevis Challenge
These 4 gorgeous and brave guys completed the gruelling Ben Nevis challenge
on 20th June and raised £1,350 for us. We think they are wonderful to have
done this and helped us enormously towards the completion of the memorial.
Brian Wood has recently left the British Army after 16yrs. His old commander
spoke to him about the Bethnal Green disaster and the Stairway to Heaven
Memorial that needs to be finished. He decided that it would be a great
challenge for him and his 3 friends, Matt Ryan, Russell Smith and Monty
Bath, to complete and raise money for an outstanding cause!
Well done lads and thanks a million. Hope you have recovered now.
posted: 23rd April 2015.
I remember, I remember.
The owner of the Genesis cinema in
Mile End Road, Tyrone Walker-Hebborn, kindly organised a film night for us
followed by a 1940s themed party. It started with a wartime newsreel and the
featured Somi de Souza’s film ‘I remember, I remember’ with interviews of 3
of our survivors. It is a very moving and powerful film, but is quite short.
For those of you that were unable to attend this excellent evening please
click on this link
to watch it now.
Everyone enjoyed the party with its Lindy Hop dancing and generously added
donations in our buckets and tins. Our thanks go to Tyrone and all the staff
at the Genesis cinema and especially to Somi De Souza for producing the film
as a fund-raiser for our charity. The film remains the copyright of Somi de
Souza so please do not share it without our permission.
posted: 19th March 2015.
100th anniversary of S & R Kelly & Sons pie & mash shop.
S & R Kelly & Sons pie & mash shop at 284 Bethnal Green Road were
celebrating their 100th birthday on Saturday.
All day long owner Robert Kelly was working hard producing his pies with
mash and liquor followed by bread pudding free of charge.
Pie loving supporters just had to put a donation in the buckets for our
Robert Kelly said that his family had been serving families in Bethnal Green
for 100 years with pie & mash, jellied eels and live eels. So he wanted to
give something back to the East End by raising funds to help finish our
Memorial to the Bethnal Green tube disaster.
Pearly Kings & Queens and a pianist helped the party atmosphere with a good
old fashioned ‘knees up’ and sing along throughout the day. Customers came
from all over London and the South East to join in.
Derek Spicer, Treasurer of the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust charity,
said he was delighted with the response and wanted to thank Robert and the
rest of the Kelly family for their generosity in organising such a wonderful
event and raising just over £2000 for us on the day, plus a very generous
donation from the family too. This will help us to complete the final part
of the Memorial this year.