2023 News and Events

Actress Millie Bobby Brown has just published her book ‘Nineteen Steps’ which is a story inspired by her late grandmother who told her all about her time during WW2 in the East End and the loss of her best friend’s family in the Bethnal Green tube disaster.

Here is an opportunity for you to see this lovely photo of Babs with Jay Blades taken when they filmed the excellent Channel 5 programme ‘Jay Blades East End’ The Programme was in three parts and both Kate Thompson and Babs Clarke took part in the filming.


We know that some of you managed to watch the Service on zoom on the day and we are pleased to say that if you missed it you will now be able to watch it again via this link below. There is no sound at the very beginning, until part-way through the first hymn, it then stops for a moment and then starts again. So, don’t worry, it is not your device.

Survivors and Relatives Remember The Worst Civilian Disaster of WW2.

Over 300 people packed St. John on Bethnal Green Church on Sunday to mark the 80th anniversary of the Bethnal Green tube shelter disaster – the worst civilian disaster of WW2 not caused by enemy bombs. The service was led by the Bishop of Stepney, The Rt Rev Dr Joanne Grenfell who gave a comforting address, along with Fr Brian Ralph (St. Barnabas Church) and Revd Christopher Morgan (Chaplain to the Bishop of Stepney). 

In the front pew at the church was HRH, The Duke of Gloucester; the Deputy Lieutenant of Tower Hamlets Leslie Morgan as well as local MP Rushanara Ali and several representatives from Tower Hamlets Council, including the deputy mayor Maium Talukdar.  During the service the names of all 173 victims were read out by members of the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust committee, many of whom had family that died in the disaster. At the same time 173 candles were lit on the altar. HRH delivered a very moving Bible reading. Committee Chairman Joyce Hampton read out her own poignant poem ‘Looking Down On You and Me’.

After the Service the clergy, followed by several Pearly Kings & Queens, paraded across the road led by the standard bearer of the Civil Defence Association, Nick Ridsdale. At least 7 survivors, plus lots of relatives of the victims and rescuers, accompanied them and our Patrons Tommy Walsh and Harry Harris, to lay flowers and wreaths on the memorial in Bethnal Green Gardens.   An Act of Remembrance and a minute’s silence followed and then a group photo was taken. The local Firefighters formed a Guard of Honour for the event.

After this everyone returned to the church for some welcome hot drinks kindly supplied by Starbucks manager Ben Tesema and his 2 daughters. Beigels, supplied from The Beigel Bake shop in Brick Lane and lots of cakes were provided by the charity committee and supporters. It gave everyone the chance to mingle, catch up with long lost friends and relatives and The Duke of Gloucester was able to speak to some of our survivors about their experience.

A souvenir brochure had been produced with memories of lots of those involved in the disaster. Special pre-printed pages were also supplied for people to add their memories of their loved ones involved in the tragedy. These will all be collated, along with those that have been collected over the last 16 years of the project, and passed on to Tower Hamlets archives at Bancroft Road library for posterity.

This was the last Memorial Service to be held at St. John’s Church. In future there will be an Act of Remembrance to honour the lives lost in the worst civilian disaster of WW2 at the Memorial itself on the actual anniversary of the disaster – 3rd March – each year at 11.30am. Everyone will be welcome to join in from next year.

The Duke of Gloucester at the Stairway to Heaven Memorial 5th March
The standard bearer passes by HRH The Duke of Gloucester
Greeting HRH The Duke of Gloucester

The 80th anniversary Memorial Service will take place on 5th March at 2pm at St. John on Bethnal Green Church - next to Bethnal Green tube station entrance where the disaster occurred. The Service will be led by The Bishop of Stepney and will be attended by HRH The Duke of Gloucester, various VIPs, and, importantly, many survivors and families of those that were affected by the disaster in one way or another. The church capacity is 300 people, as the upstairs will not be available, so if numbers exceed that we will have to refuse entry and ask people to wait at the memorial across the road instead.

During the Service the names of all 173 victims will be read out and simultaneously 173 candles will be lit on the altar. After the Service we will parade across the road with lots of Pearly Kings & Queens to lay wreaths and flowers on our memorial, but please make sure that there are no metal, wire or sharp parts to these floral tributes if you plan to bring any along as they can damage the surface of the Memorial.

There will be a short Act of remembrance at the memorial followed by a minute’s silence and then everyone is welcome to return to the church where refreshments will be available and a chance to catch up with everyone. There will be special memory pages for people to submit their memories of their loved ones connected to the disaster. These will be stored at Tower Hamlets Local History Archive to be kept for posterity.  There will also be books and memorial painting notelets for sale too. We have been collecting short memories from various people to be included in a limited-edition souvenir brochure that will be on sale for £5 each, cash sales only, on the day.

We intend taking photos at the side of the Memorial of 173 relatives, survivors and rescuers for posterity, to reflect the tragic loss of life on the 3rd March 1943. In addition, there will be professional photographers taking a variety of photos to cover the whole of the 80th Memorial Service as well as the dedication and remembrance at the memorial itself.

Some of you may have seen the very moving and powerful play ‘A Long Night in London’ written by Bernie Byrnes back in 2011. It has been updated and will now be performed in several locations this year. It will be performed twice at Oxford House, just off Bethnal Green Road, on the actual anniversary date 3rd March. The matinee will be at 2.30pm and then at 7.30pm. Tickets can be purchased at: www.giddytheatre.co.uk. It is also being performed 23-25th February in Bracknell, Berkshire, and in Brighton in May.  Please see their website for more details.