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

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
The usual suspects

In the run-up to the general election, we’ve decided to tell you what you really want to know about David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nigel Farage, Natalie Bennett and Nick...Someone based on Google searches.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
[Homes for Britain]

The cost of buying or renting a home in London is something everyone has to deal with, but these posters at Westminster Tube station show just how overpriced property in the capital has become.

Friday, February 27, 2015
The Mayor with Nathan Bostock, Chief Executive of Santander (Photo by Steve Bardens/ Getty Images for Santander)

The Mayor of London took a new red Boris Bike out for a spin this morning as he announced Santander was taking over from Barclays as sponsor of the city’s cycle scheme.

Thursday, February 26, 2015
Sol Campbell has announced his intention to run for Mayor of London  (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

The former Arsenal, Spurs and England defender Sol Campbell has announced his intention to take over from Boris Johnson and become the next Mayor of London. But would he be any good?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Natalie Bennett spluttered and stalled her way through an interview with radio station LBC

Cringeworthy, incredibly awkward, car crash - all words you used to describe the Green Party leader Natalie Bennett’s radio interview with LBC this morning.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015
[Photograph by @WolvoPingu]

Housing protesters have clashed with police officers as they held a ‘mock eviction’ at a fancy dinner for bailiffs where they say people were “receiving awards for making families homeless.”

Latest Stories from SNAP.PA

We’re sure we’ve seen those platinum blonde locks on someone else…

Read more

Russian, Hungarian, and dialects from across India are part of his patter.

Read more

Once they step on the mat and look at the camera the picture is taken.

Read more

Promoted content

A look at one of our previous Design Fairs

Chelsea Old Town Hall will be the venue for the renowned Desire Fair from 6-8 March 2015. This stunning mixed media jewellery and silversmithing event where visitors can purchase direct from contemporary designer makers selected from the best in the UK is an event not to be missed.

(Not guaranteed)

Mothers Day is fast approaching, so we’ve rounded up some unusual and beautiful gifts for you to dazzle the most important woman in your life come March 15th.

What is this?

Near You Now

Don't Miss...

A man has now been jailed for the attack which left the officer unconscious.

The thieves were in and out in one minute – much like in the films.

A manhole caught fire in a street in New York, causing evacuations from a nearby building.

Quirky London