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, June 24, 2016
The protest is marching on the Shard (Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Images)

Pro-EU protesters are planning to march to the headquarters of Rupert Murdoch’s News UK. where pro-Brexit tabloid The Sun is based, this evening.

Friday, June 24, 2016
As June 24 is widely hailed as Independence Day, should London go it alone?  (Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

As most of the UK voted for Brexit, two significant areas voted overwhelming to remain in the Union: Scotland, and London.

Friday, June 24, 2016
Londoners are despairing at news Britain has voted to leave the EU (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

London is in a state of ‘shock’ and ‘sadness’ after Britain voted in favour of leaving the EU and David Cameron resigned. The capital found itself largely irrelevant after Vote Leave celebrated much larger wins than expected. Across 33 boroughs, 59.9% (2.26 million) voted to remain in the EU - in some areas, the remain vote was more than 70 per cent. This is what Londoners had to say...

Friday, June 24, 2016
UKIP Leader Nigel Farage speaking in London where he claimed victory for the Leave campaign (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

Britain is set to leave the EU after the Leave campaign was declared winners of this historic referendum.

Thursday, June 23, 2016
A wry sign was stuck in the window of the Methodist Central Hall polling station in Westminster as Londoners headed to the polls this morning (Picture: PA Wire)

It is EU Referendum day and the rain is pouring, but Londoners are still flocking to polling stations to ensure their voices are heard. Follow us here throughout the day for updates on exit polls and some great pictures of #dogsatpollingstations in the capital.

Thursday, June 23, 2016
Double trouble (Photo: @ScrappyN)

As Britain goes to the polls to vote in the EU Referendum, so do Britain’s dogs.

Don't Miss...

Competitions

£15k prize bundle

Imagine having the opportunity to win an incredible £15,000 bundle of some of the most amazing prizes available. Well, for one lucky contest entrant that dream could soon become a reality because we at MyOffers are offering an incredible free prize bundle that will make even the most hardened person wild with excitement.

Read more
Win a BMW 1 series

There are fewer cars currently on the market more stylish and exciting than the BMW. Known all over the world as one of the best car manufacturers, the BMW is renowned for sleek designs and fantastic high quality workmanship.

Read more

Latest Tech News

Transport