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‘Remembering the victims of the Bethnal Green tube disaster on the 70th Anniversary’

16:59 21 February 2013

British Labour MP Rushanara Ali at her office in the Houses of Parliament.

British Labour MP Rushanara Ali at her office in the Houses of Parliament.

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Rushanara Ali MP, Labour: Bethnal Green & Bow

Remembering the victims of the Bethnal Green tube disaster on the 70th Anniversary in Parliament

On 3 March 1943, during the peak of the Second World War, a crowd of people entered Bethnal Green tube station, which was being used as an air-raid shelter. These people were responding to an air raid siren and although no enemy planes were overhead, but after the searchlights went on, an anti-aircraft battery a few hundred yards away in Victoria Park launched a salvo of new anti-aircraft rockets. Responding to the new, unexpected noise, the crowd surged forward.

One unfortunate individual tripped on the stairs of the station, causing many others to fall. The tragic result is that 300 people were crushed into the stairwell within only a few second. One hundred and seventy-three people died and over ninety others were injured. The result was Britain’s worst civilian disaster of the Second World War.

The disaster happened 70 years ago this year and it is only proper that it be remembered. Following the tireless work of the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust, a memorial sculpture is currently under construction near the station where the disaster occurred. And there is wider interest in East London, with researchers at the University of East London recording interviews with some of the survivors. These recorded memories of survivors, rescuers and relatives of those who died will be gathered, as will documents on the disaster and its effect on the local population at the time. This work will mean audio guides can be installed at the memorial site featuring interviews with survivors. I welcome the hard work of the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust and University of East London. It is high time East London had a memorial worthy of reflecting the gravity of Britain’s worst civilian disaster of the Second World War, especially ahead of the 70th anniversary on 3rd March 1943. I am delighted that later this month, the Speaker of the House of Commons will be hosting a reception in Parliament to mark this important anniversary in remembrance of those who lost their lives. If you want to donate to the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Campaign, please visit:

http://www.stairwaytoheavenmemorial.org/gpage18.html

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