In 1943, Bethnal Green in East London experienced one of its worst wartime tragedies. Not from bombs or flying shrapnel, but something potentially far deadlier: panic.
Memorial plaque commemorating the victims of an accident on the southeastern staircase of Bethnal Green tube station during an air raid alert in 1943. (Image: Sunil060902)
During a routine air raid siren test, civilians on their way to shelter in the Tube station all happened to converge on the entrance at once.
In their panic to get downstairs, some people tripped… and then the stampede began.
As more and more people fell to their knees and bodies kept piling in the door, the panic became a deadly crush. One hundred and seventy-three people were trampled to death, including at least 41 children.
The disaster was Britain’s worst civilian tragedy in the entire war.
Photo: Underground Tube Stations in London were used regularly as bomb shelters
Over 70 years after the accident, its memory still scars the station. Underground staff and late night passengers have reported hearing women screaming and the sound of children crying.
Do the voices of the dead still linger beneath East London’s streets?
The only way to be sure is to go down there late at night and find out for yourself.
Photo: Workmen repairing the stairs after the tragedy.