Mayor backs Advertiser bid for apology for Bethnal Green wartime disaster

12:47 24 September 2012

1943... Entrance to Bethnal Green public air-raid shelter

1943... Entrance to Bethnal Green public air-raid shelter

London Met Archive - promo

The Mayor of Tower Hamlets is backing the Advertiser’s campaign for an official apology to the people of London’s East End over a wartime tragedy that cost 173 civilian lives.

Men, women, children and babies died in the Bethnal Green public air-raid shelter during an enemy alert because the staircase leading down to safety was unsafe and couldn’t cope with the surge.

The campaign comes in the wake of last week’s apology in the Commons by Prime Minister David Cameron over the Hillsborough affair which cost the lives of 96 football fans 23 years ago.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman told Wednesday’s Tower Hamlets council meeting: “Hillsborough reminds us of our own tragedy—the 1943 Bethnal Green Disaster when 173 East Enders lost their lives, leaving families devastated and searching for answers to this day.”

The similarities with Hillsborough are uncanny. The victims were blamed in both cases by the authorities who were later seen to have engineered cover-ups after previous warnings about unsafe public facilities had been ignored.

The wartime Civil Defence authorities failed to listen to Bethnal Green borough council before the disaster about the unsafe stairway leading down to the half-built Underground station being used as a deep-level shelter.

Home Defence Minister Herbert Morrison later used the wartime security and Official Secrets Act to stop the council, a forerunner of Tower Hamlets, going public with the truth.

Mayor Rahman pledged: “I am supporting the campaigners’ call for a fresh review—and calling on our local MPs to join in this campaign.”

News of the Mayor’s support was welcomed this week by the Stairway to Heaven Trust which is building a permanent memorial at Bethnal Green Gardens to the victims.

Its secretary Sandra Scotting told the Advertiser: “Morrison blamed panicking crowds—but even a police report at the time said there was no panic. It was a cover-up.

“In today’s climate, it would have been put down to sheer weight of numbers, unsafe entrance design and poor lighting.”

But the difference with Hillsborough is that the Bethnal Green tragedy has never been openly investigated.

An inquiry now needs to re-examine the facts to find out who was really to blame for the 173 deaths. Like Hillsborough, it wasn’t the victims.

Sign up for our news alerts today!

Our editors' picks for the day's top news delivered to your inbox or phone.

Sign up for email alerts Sign up for mobile alerts
1
2 3 4 5 6
7

Latest London politics news

Friday, September 4, 2015
Insulting comments sent to prospective deputy Labour party leader Stella Creasy included 'you look like an alien egg' (Picture: YouTube)

‘She looks like she’s had more c**ks than hot dinners’ is just one of the charming emails Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy has received during her campaign to become deputy Labour leader. Watch her read them out to camera here.

Thursday, September 3, 2015
A paramilitary police officer carries the lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi, 3, after a number of migrants died and a smaller number were reported missing after boats carrying them to the Greek island of Kos capsized. Picture: AP Photo/DHA/PA Images

A tweet from the account of Wimbledon UKIP candidate Peter Bucklitsch caused outrage today by stating Aylan Kurdi ‘died because his parents were greedy for the good life in Europe’.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015
This image of a Syrian father cradling his children went viral

Almost 70,000 people have pledged to attend a central London demonstration called ‘Solidarity with Refugees’ on September 12.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Sian Berry, who also stood as the Green Party London Mayoral candidate in 2008, has been chosen as the Green's 2016 candidate (Picture: PA Images)

Transport campaigner and arts-loving councillor Sian Berry has been selected as the Green Party candidate for London Mayor in 2016.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015
A naval vessel outside the ExCeL exhibition centre at an earlier Defence and Security Exhibition in 2011.  Other exhibits included an F16 fighter jet (Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

One of the world’s biggest arms fairs is coming to the ExCel centre in east London later this month, and more than 1,000 protestors are already planning to oppose it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015
The eponymous craft beer is not always brewed in the capital (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

If there’s two things London foodies are obsessed with, it’s craft beer and local products, so it’s a surprise to learn that a drink that is named after London and boasts of being “the quintessential English lager” is sometimes brewed in Europe.

What is this?

Near You Now

Don't Miss...

Competitions

Happy viewing!

MyOffers are giving you that chance to win an amazing Samsung 55” Curve HD TV.

Read more
Get ready to take in the beautiful sights of London from above!

Are you always seeking unique ways to see your favourite city? This one is for you.

Read more
Shop till you drop!

Home to top name brands at great prices, TK Maxx is more like a treasure hunt than a shop. Perfect for grabbing a bargain or some hidden gems, you arm yourself with a trolley and go wild.

Read more