Stories: Lorraine Smith

On 3rd March 1943, my nan (Eleanor Smith née Mead) met her brother George Mead after she had finished work. George was going to the Bethnal Green tube shelter with his family. My nan decided not to go with him as her son was ill and so she went home instead. George’s family had previously been evacuated but had recently returned to Bethnal Green.

George, 38, met his family – his wife Florence, 35, his sons George, 12 and Kenny, 10 and his daughter Maureen, 4 and they went to the tube shelter. Instead of being safe from the bombing, they were caught up in the tube disaster. The sound of rockets being tested in Victoria Park sparked panic of an air raid. In the ensuing panic all five died.

When their bodies were recovered, Kenny had the impression of a hobnail boot on his face. George senior had been carrying Maureen and he was found with his arms outstretched, where he had tried to throw Maureen clear of the mass of people.

Maureen was pulled out alive and was taken to hospital, where my great grandmother stayed with her. She intended to bring her up if she pulled through. Unfortunately Maureen died about 5 hours later. She died with a tear in her eye.

As well as George and his family, my nan’s aunt, Eliza Mead 66, and her daughter Matilda (Tilly) Korobenick née Mead, 33, were also killed in the disaster.

That night my nan lost her beloved brother, her sister in law, two nephews, a niece, an aunt and her cousin - who was also a very close friend.

From my great grandmother’s perspective, that night she lost her only son, her daughter in law, three grandchildren, a niece, and her sister in law – who was also a very close friend.

It was a tragedy that should never have happened but which cost seven members of my family their life.

If my nan had decided to join them, I would most probably not be alive today.

- Lorraine Smith