JEWISH EAST END CELEBRATION SOCIETY

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Can you help with information on Bethnal Green victims?

Memorial Trust seeks relatives and friends of those killed in the Second World War’s worst civilian disaster

Bethnal Green tube station entrance 1943.
Photo courtesy of Tower Hamlets Archives.
Inside Bethnal Green tube station the morning after the disaster,
Photo courtesy of Tower Hamlets Archives.

Was a member of your family or a friend a victim of the Bethnal Green tube disaster, the worst civilian disaster of the Second World War? Do you recognise any of the names below? If so, Sandra Scotting, secretary of the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust, which seeks to ensure the tragedy is never forgotten, would love to hear from you.

The Trust seeks to ensure that the 173 people who died in that terrible, terrible evening of March 3 1943 are never forgotten. Over 90 more people were seriously injured.

The unfinished Bethnal Green station had been made available as a shelter two years earlier, after initial fears that the risk of flooding made it too dangerous, and people were used to making their way there when the sirens wailed. There were 5,000 bunks, and on some nights 7,000 people.

It had been raining that evening and the steps were slippery. Explosions – of anti-aircraft rockets under test, it turned out – could be heard nearby, and people flocked to the shelter. A woman with a small child fell. The crowd at the top could not see. They pressed on down. And the barriers at the bottom prevented movement, as people piled on top of each other. Within seconds, a mass of humanity lay suffocating at the foot of the stairs as people continued to fight to get down. 

Sandra Scotting writes: “Here are the families that I am assuming were Jewish that died in the disaster. Some may not have been, so you will have to be the judge of that.

“For some of them we have no family connections at all (these are the ones with two ** at the side of their names) so an appeal for contacts would be really helpful.

“Of course there could some in the list that are Jewish but their names don't sound like they are. There were no records in those days to tell people's religion and many changed their names to sound more ‘English’ just in case Hitler found his way to England. I know that Betty Aarons’ family was Jewish, but the father changed their name to Arnold soon after the disaster. Betty went to St. John's Church School – just in case!!”

Betty Aarons (aged 14); Jessie Asser (aged 33) **; Israel Brookstone (aged 67); Agnes Ingle (aged 28) **; Henry Julier (aged 18); Eliza Korobenic (aged 33); Maurice Lazarus (aged 42); Florence Lechmere (aged 66); Thomas Allen Lechmere (aged 66); Thomas Charles Lechmere (aged 43); Ruby Mathers (aged 18) **;  Derek Morris (aged 6) **; Florence Morris (aged 30) **;  Jeffrey Myers (aged 6) **;  Sophie Myers (aged 40) **; Rosina Papworth (aged 27); Emily Pusey (aged 49);  Henry Pusey (aged 51); Joseph Raulinaitis (aged 32) **; Irene Trayling (aged 20) **.

If you recognise any of those names please email Sandra at sandra.s6@btinternet.com or contact the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust on 01474 702513 or (M) 077324 60 444

A Memorial Service for the victims will take place on Sunday March 3 at 2pm at St. John on Bethnal Green Church (next door to Bethnal Green underground station) and all are welcome.  There will be wreath and flower laying on the Memorial for the first time, with representatives from different faiths giving blessings for the victims.

Bethnal Green tube disaster memorial, Bethnal Green Park.
Photo courtesy of Harry Paticas, Arboreal Architecture
Collage of some of the children who lost their lives.
Photo courtesy of Charles Jenkins Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust