Politics of Memory and Performance Portfolio Bethnal Green Memorial – materials and reflections

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Log Entry 1
Reflection on Audio Walk
Memorial to Bethnal Green Disaster – March 3 1945
Ananda Breed
9 February 2014

Went on audio walk and then go home and find an emotional connection to Bethnal Green. We then had to write up approximately 200 words about the experience.

Bethnal Green Disaster Memorial
# Young people sitting around the Bethnal Green Memorial site.
# Community, laughing,.
# must not have lost of history, and to move forward.
# Image, community of the time, who, what is the consistency of time.
# Entertainment, front rooms, where they used entertains back during World War II.
# Government cover-up stories don’t want truth at of what happened that day.
# Community spirit got a lot of survivors.
# Number of theatres with in the local area of Tower Hamlets, Bethnal Green, Hackney and Shoreditch.
# Most of the stars that was in movies and theatre with in the East End was Jewish.
# Rivers, ships, you were bombers.
# 30 years. It was kept hidden by the BBC and plays until the 50th anniversary then the truth come out about what happened within the Bethnal Green disaster.
#Tower Hamlets archives sources.
Chanel Falzon u 132 3625
Disaster Memorial story

on the evening of March 3, 1945 the air raid sirens came on hundreds of people fled their homes and many was out for the night at the pubs or the Cinema enjoying a night out, they had to rush to get to a shelter because East London had no gardens of space for and Anderson shelter.
That fatal night there was panic, screaming, screaming that there was a bomb, people were pushing running to the entrance at the cheap station that night the steps were only 19 wide steps leading down into the ticket hall, there was no hand rails to hold onto and the floor was very treacherous and wet. The only light source was a single light bulb.

The events that happen next, with very tragic a woman with a small child suddenly fell and stumbled on the stairs, and then an elderly man lost his footing and fell over shortly after others started falling. It was a bit like the Domino’s effect, very quickly. People were piled on top of each other. Five or six bodies piled up over one another and people were quickly crashed.
Mainly people got pinned down by the way of the bodies of the person above them so people could not move of escape or Breath , according to the government and magistrates report, but the government kept it quiet for two years and the local people was advised by the government not to talk about it.
This was one of the worst civic disasters with in the modern British history that was not calls by any immediate action, World War II, but in fact by bad lighting and disrepair to the station and stairs contributed to the incident that night, even though the pairs was reported to be carried out in the near future, that tragic night hundred and 73 people died and 62 of those were children.
What happened that night was kept secrets because Julian World War II, the government harsh everything up and the local people was to told not to speak of the incident as this with underlying the war effort and the morale. But the government did not want to disclose what really happened that night. The media, newspapers, radio, had limitations in what they could say.
When reading the individual stories of what happened that night in Bethnal Green Chip shelter. It was mainly working-class people that lived in and around the surrounding areas of Bethnal Green women during the war worked many different jobs as during that time most of the work men were fighting a war’s most of the winning with doing a man’s job and how a woman worked as a bus driver, but was treated like second class citizens.
Living in the East End was tough. Most of the working class people went through hardships in life, but East end people never give up. They stick together and continue on no matter what, and their characteristics are very strong.
That night on the Bethnal Green stairwell people were trying to make their way back home when the all clear was given as during the wartime, when the sirens went off. They also had a Simon for all clear. The bodies from the stairway were laid out flat on the ground as the ambulance could not collect the bodies quickened to take them away. People started to return to their homes in shock of what happens. They didn’t know whether any of their loved ones was in the Bethnal Green shelter all they could do was to return home and checked to see if their family members were safe and sound.
When the bodies from the disaster was taken to the local hospital on Hackney Road the nurse on duty that night said the bodies did not have any sustainable injuries nor a mark on them, they suffocated and that was very clear because of the blue around their face lack of oxygen stop.
This lack of oxygen connected me to a personal memory of my mother that died of OC P, which is a condition of the lungs, and grieving. You see, my mum is very ill for many years and she died in the local hospital. The Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel around nine years ago, this triggered off a sad memory for me. Then it interconnected with another memory.
This memory was around six years ago when I had a stroke. I was living in Bethnal Green around the corner from the birth Bethnal Green station on pop Street E2, that day I was not feeling very well and I had to take my kids to nursery and school I had to drive my daughter, who was free at the time to a nursery in Roman Road market. Then I had to drive from Roman the market to Brick Lane to take my son to school. I was setting in. In school, as he just started, as I left the school. I didn’t feel very well, so I decided to go to my GP, just off of Bethnal Green Road.
I had symptoms of shortness of breath my left arm and leg was going numb down one side. I struggled to park my car with one hand only my right. By the time I got to see a GP. My speech at started to slur my face started to drop to one side. I was having a stroke, the doctor wanted an ambulance to take me straight away to hospital but I said no, as I must pick up my children first and school I had to be strong and brave as I knew what Woods happened to me, I phoned a friend and asked them to meet me at my daughter’s nursery. I don’t know how physically that day that I got in the car and continue to drive with one hand only.
Their me my friend picked up my son and I went back home. Somehow I found the strength to pack a bag make arrangements for my kids to be taking care of then I lay down on my bed and asked my friend to call an ambulance, I feel without my East End strength as I called it, “never give up “I don’t think I would’ve survived it, the ambulance rationing to hospital with the blue light on, but that’s all I remember. Then I found myself waking up in a hospital bed and I didn’t quite understand was going on. All I know I was told by a nurse and a doctor that I mustn’t get out of bed and I must keep totally steal. I was given an injection which was extremely painful and then I had to learn how to speak and walk again.
I was in hospital for a few weeks. The healing process was slow. I left hospital and stayed at my dad’s house, where I slowly recovered after this tragic traumatic event, I began to ask myself what do I want to do in my life, And how can I make my life better, so I decided that I would like to return back to college and become more educated. I did my GCSE English and maths. This was my starting point from their I did a further three years. Two years at college and hate and the course, it shake my life because of that tragic traumatic event of the stroke after four years of college, I was able to obtain a place at University of East London in 2013 and I’m hoping that I will pass the graduate and then do a further year in a masters course at UEL. It changed my life direction, even though physically, I became weak, but it shake me as a person and it made me a stronger human being and because of this tragic of then I will never give up in anything that I attempt to do.
The local shared memory. Some may was that the people died were East End people like me and I could strongly relate to them. I have somehow got an emotional connection to them in some way. I also have plexus T of the East end mentality. It’s simple, never give up. Be strong and carry on, I initially felt very sad. Quite emotional when I did the auto will for the Bethnal Green disaster. It was almost as if I was there, walking likes a ghostly fashion with them almost walking in their footsteps, where they will and then that connection continued and linked with another connection.
The connection links me to my bereavement feelings as two years ago on 7 February 2013. My father died, but for some unknown reason, the connection between the people that died in the Bethnal Green stairway and the connection of the feelings of me grieving and my dad’s death. Somehow linked and the bereavement and the emotional content come out more on that day and I fell the loss of all the people that were listed that died that day and it was very sad.
The global shared memorial which tragic by the loss of life for the Bethnal Green disaster, my mind linked September 11, 2001, I was looking after my mother that day as she was unwell. We were having a cuppa tea and watching news, I remember seeing the newsflash I was thinking it was a film or a joke or something. I just sat there in shock. I remember looking at my mum and my mum didn’t quite believe what she was seeing, but neither did Me September 11, the global connection. The tower of the World Trade Centre collapsed on September 11, 2001. As a result of the centre’s twin towers being hit by a jet airliner hijacked by terrorists affected by Qaeda this global memory. This tragic traumatic disaster links the Bethnal Green disaster locally personal memory and global dramatic intervention.
During the attacks. 2, 7 5 2 people died that day, including all 157 passengers(including hijacker) crew aboard the two aeroplanes, the clear up was a massive operation coordinated by the city of New York Department of design and construction on 22nd, the health effects it had on Manhattan’s city as a dust cloud covered Manhattan over four days, and has resulted in a seniors in air quality and was more likely to be the cause of many long term medical and psychological effects like asthma, sinusitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease and post-traumatic stress disorder.
I feel that 7, 11 are globally recognised around the world and because of this incident. There are changes that have taken place because the terrorism and the safety of planes and how this is affected the world today. There have been changes made on planes because of the terrorist threats. There are new rules and regulations on what you are able to take on the plane with you and also with the passport control and because of the change within government and with security issues. This is become a dramatic intervention because of what the terrorists did, and the reaction from government to protect from this ever happening again and this is interlinked to the terrorist attack in London seventh of July 2005, bombing, where suicide attack in central London and target civilians using the public transport system during the morning rush-hour for suicide bombers killed over 700 people and more was injured. This brought about change within the MFI government and the security measures and did all so linked with the United States president George Washington, Bush and other countries globally, there was a sympathetic empathy in regard to the bombings in London and September 11 in America, the tragic cheese that’s happened is very sad facts, but the global indications it brings different communities together and that in itself is a dramatic intervention.

Information about the Memorial Project from the official website which unfortunately is currently being re-designed and is unavailable.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT ABOUT?
The Bethnal Green Memorial Project is dedicated to collecting and preserving records relating to the disaster and its aftermath. We now have more than 30 interviews with witnesses, relatives and survivors, and have digitised hundreds of documents and images, all complementing the Bethnal Green Disaster Memorial in honouring the 173 people who died in the disaster, their families, rescuers and those who survived. Funded generously by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and in partnership with Bishopsgate lnstitute, Raphael Samuel History Centre, University of East London, Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust, and a dedicated team of volunteers, we are producing a book, an audio trail around the memorial in Bethnal Green Gardens, education resources, a touring exhibition, this website, and an archive of memories, material and support for future use. Our aim is to commemorate and immortalise the events of 3 March 1943. lf you are able to support us, please click DONATE.
THE DISASTER
Shortly after an air-raid warning on the evening of 3 March 1943, hundreds of people in Bethnal Green fled for shelter. Hurriedly leaving their homes and the pubs and cinemas where many were enjoying a night out, they made their way to the nearest shelter. ln East London many houses had no garden or space for an Anderson Shelter, and the London Underground offered protection. That night approximately two thousand people bedded down in Bethnal Green Underground shelter. ln nearby Victoria Park the Royal Artillery fired an unfamiliar rocket-based anti-aircraft weapon. A tremendous, unexpected ‘whoosh’ filled the air just as several buses emptied of passengers near the underground shelter. There was screaming; some shouted that it must be a bomb. There was rush to get to shelter through the only entrance to the tube station – 19 wide steps, with no central handrail, led down toward the ticket hall. The dark, wet staircase was ill-lit by single light bulb. Suddenly a woman with a child stumbled and tripped; an elderly man fell over her; others couldn’t stop themselves tumbling on top. Very quickly the crush of bodies was five or six deep. Pinned down by the weight of those above them, people couldn’t move – and they couldn’t breathe. According to the official magistrate’s report, which was not made public for two years, ‘the stairway was converted from a corridor to a charnel house in ten to fifteen seconds’.
The scale of this appalling tragedy was unprecedented. lt was one of the worst civilian disasters in modern British history not caused by enemy action. There were 173 deaths, 62 of whom were children. The death toll was greater than the 1989 Hillsborough stadium tragedy and the 1966 disaster at Aberfan. Given the scale of the disaster, it is perhaps surprising that the location and many details of the event were kept secret during the war and it has largely escaped public memory ever since. The newspapers were not allowed to report the full details of the tragedy and survivors were told not to talk about it for fear of undermining the war effort. The day after the disaster crucial central handrails were installed. A year later the Bethnal Green Corporation was successfully sued for negligence. Since then, the tragedy has been rarely discussed and the event is strangely absent from many popular accounts of the home front, which like the newsreels of the time, tend to emphasise the more positive aspects of life sheltering underground from the bombing.
The official records of the event are relatively sparse; recently released
documents under the Official Secrets Act include government discussions
suppressing the full results of the subsequent enquiry liability and compensation; there are censored press accounts and Corporation records available in local archives. Since the launch of a memorial appeal, contact has been made with survivors, witnesses and those who treated the injured and their families. There are photographs, written records and personal memories of the victims, the disaster and its aftermath. Much of this personal material still remains in family homes. For a long time the event was very simply memorialised in a small plaque on Bethnal Green Underground station entrance but following a campaign by survivors and relatives, money has been successfully raised for the installation of an impressive site of remembrance adjacent to the Underground station. (See www. stairwaytoheavenmemorial.org for details – the charity is still fundraising to finish the final stage of the memorial).
The memorial design is architecturally and artistically striking and will be a
prominent feature on the Bethnal Green landscape for years to come; it has already been registered for the London Open House programme. The site, which records the names and ages of all the victims, is also the focus of an annual ceremony on the anniversary of the disaster. The story of the idea, design and building of the memorial itself is also being recorded for posterity.

Log Entry 2
Individual Stories of Survivors from the Disaster
Memorial to Bethnal Green Disaster – March 3 1945
Ananda Breed
9 February 2014

STORIES TO REMEMBER . INDIVIDUAL STORIES

Ada Magnus
Ada and her friend Doreen were watching a film in The Rex cinema in Bethnal Green Road when the air-raid siren sounded. They immediately made their way out of the cinema and parted outside – Ada to her nearby home where she joined her family in their shelter. The following morning Ada heard that Doreen and her mother had died on the steps of Bethnal Green underground shelter.
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lvternorial Froject
BethnalGreen Memorial Proiect: Oral Histcry Summary
Catalogue Number: lnterviewee/s:
Ada Magnus
lnterviewer/s:
Philip and Amy
Date of lnterview:
28 January 2014
Location: Length of interview:
25 minutes
Any other infc
Time:
0:00
1:30
3:40
6:15
8:30
10:00
11;00
L4:00
L7:00
L8:45
Summary;
lntroduction, Description of Ada’s childhood and family background. She hardly
attended school until she was fourteen, when she left school to work.
Ada remembers being bombed out for the first time. She and her sister found shelter
with relatives for a while.
At fourteen, Ada started working as a machinist. She describes how several of her
friends and colleagues died in the Bethnal Green tube disaster. She was attending a film
screening that night.
After the film, Ada went home and later went to an air raid shelter, while some of her
friends ended up going to the tube station. Ada didn’t hear about what had happened
until the next day.
Ada can’t remember much about the days before the disaster, She recalls going to the
shelter frequently, windows covered in cardboard, and queuing up for rations. She also
recalls getting some good on the black market.
She is aware of the guns stationed in Barmy Park around the time of the disaster and
that they are assumed to have caused the noise that started the disaster.
After the disaster, Ada moved on with life. She describes her relationship with a young
pilot who also died. She also remembers a pub that was later destroyed by bombs.
Ada never had to identify any of the bodies, and turned down the offer to see her
friend Doreen for a last time.
She speaks about her family history in cabinet making.
Ada tells a story about going to the Bingo and running into her brother’s friend and how
they had been affected by the disaster.
I
22:34 She remembers a row of little shops, including a fish and chip shop, that no longer exist.
She speaks about how people were scattered and relocated as a result of the war, and
she lost touch with many.
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Memorial Project
Bethnal Green Memorial Project lnteruiew Transcript
lnterviewee (AM): Ada Magnus
lnterviewer {l}: Philip Sunshine, Amy Cooper
Date: 28 January 2014
Location: Ada’s home
l: Hello, this is Philip Sunshine with Amy Cooper interviewing Ada Magnus for the Bethnal Green
Memorial Trust on the 28th Jan 2014. First of all I’d like to thank you Ada for taking part in this.
AM: You’re quite welcome.
l: I’d like to ask you to describe your early life and background of your life and family. School, leisure
and work.
AM: I was born in Russia Lane and Mowlem Street school, then the war broke out. I did go to school
for a little while at Whitstable, then my mum, I was the youngest, so she didn’t, she came in, I never
went to school til I left, nearly fourteen. So I suppose really I’m a dumbhead. {laughs)
l: What about your friends? Playing out on the street?
AM: You couldn’t, could you? You used to get bombing raids in the day. I wasn’t kept in, I used to go
out, but you couldn’t go far because you had to go in the shelters. We used to go to – I did get
bombed out in 1940, the first lot of bombing. I lived on the corner of Russia Lane and Robinson
Road. And we had to get out right away, we were but in Globe Road school. And my dad was a
dustman. And we weren’t in there for long, couple of hours after the night. We wasn’t pulled out, we
walked out. He said to my mum, I found a place. lt was in Treadway Street, but that didn’t have any
back on either. But he wouldn’t stay in the – I can’t remember what it was called now, but you went
there when you got bombed out. They take em in churches and all that. lt was just for when you was
bombed out. But only when you were bombed out, he was quite an independent man, And we
stayed there and my sister was having a very nervous time. She was getting bad with nerves. And we
went down to my sister in law’s aunt in Whitstable for a little while. Stayed there. Eventually we
came back, and by then they lived in Granby Street, which was a better house but we still had to go
down the shelter every night. And we used to go down Godfrey Phillips, there was a big tobacco
place. Cause my mum worked there, so she was allowed to use this shelter in the night and you
never even heard the bombing down there. I think I was about twelve when we moved to St Jude’s
Road. I was there til I got married. I went to school from there. lt’s Lawdale now, it was Lawrence
then. And I left at fourteen and went to work.
l: What sort of work did you take on?
AM: I went machining at first but it wasn’t so good, I’m not so good with the eyes. And my friend
who got killed was quite bright. She was quite a clever girl. She had a brother that had already been
to Parmiters- when this happened. And I think that what happened with him – I think they mainly
went for him because he was so nervous. And then he became the caller – I don’t know why,
because he was quite a clever fella. He was about three years older than me. He became the caller
for the Bingo in Hackney Road. His name was Tommy Chandler, the same as his father. I was friends
with them. With Doreen more, she had another sister Pat. Tommy and Pat got out of that, they was
in that. Pat I think had done nursing. She was also quite bright, they were quite bright allof them.
(XXX) I didn’t go friends with her like. She’d only live round the corner from me. A very nice quiet
sorta girl she was. And she got killed. lthink she was about thirteen as well, same as us. But she just
turned fourteen, Doreen. And cause her birthday was in January. We’d been to this picture palace, I
think it was King’s Row, I think it was Ronald Reagan, the ex-president, better actor than a
president… I shouldn’t say.
l: Most people would agree with you on that. (laughs)
AM: lliked him.
l: What was this cinema called?
AMr lt was originally called Smarts. That would have been in your dad’s time. And then it was called
The Rex. lt went to The Rex, and then it was the Essoldo I think. lt was only a flat one like the
museum one in Cambridge Heath Road. We came out from there cause the raid went, I better go. I
said alrightthen. lleft herthere because lonly livedthrough Hollybush Gardens in StJude’s Road.
And I never knew no more about it til the next morning, cause we was in the shelter as well. But
apparently they heard a noise, and I’m still not sure which part they was crushed in. I take it it must
have been the first part, because they said they was all crushed on the stairs. And her mother was a
very good-looking woman. She was only young, thirty-something. Very filmstar-ish to me, cause my
murn had me when she was forty, you know what I mean. The only impression I got was my sister,
cause she used to be quite smart and all that, There were dresses then, weren’t there, at that age.
And that was it. And I left her out there, and I didn’t know no more. And Dickie Corbett, the boxer, I
did know his son, he died there.
l: Was that his boxing name, Dickie Corbett? Cause… Richard Coleman, wasn’t he, as well?
AM: They said that was his name, but I never thought of it like that. Just called him Dickie Corbett
And I think Doreen’s mum’s name was Lil, I think. I can’t remember really now, it was such a long
while ago. Although when I go to the library I always go and look at the thing. Always go.
l: So can you tell us a little bit more about Dickie?
AM: No, I didn’t know much about him. I didn’t know much. lf a couple of my brothers would have
been alive, they woulda told you because one of my brothers did box for the Territorials and all that,
you know. And I don’t think Dickie would’ve been as old as him. Cause he was twenty years older
than me, he was the first in the family. But the two or three older ones might have been able to say
something. But they’re all gone now, I’m the only one left out of us.
l: You spoke a bit about the disaster. But leading up to the disaster, what was the days leading up to
the disaster like?
AM: I can’t remember really, just used to go. To be truthful, you had to come out of the shelter early,
get ready. lt wasn’t any life really. Mostly your windows was card boarded up or boxed up. Which to
me was horrible. Absolutely horrible. Like they all have blinds now, and I hate blinds. I won’t have
blinds. Only in the kitchen ‘cos l’d had to have the cooker put near the sink. But other than that I
won’t have blinds. You went to the shelter, you’d come home, they went to work or to school, you’d
done what you could. Sometimes you just got cleared up, there’d been a little bit of bombing near
you, yourd come home to an houseful of dust and soot again. That’s what it was. Then you had to
queue up for a lot of things. You know, you got rations, but you got to queue up for some things.
Unless you got a bit black market, which we all did. But we couldn’t let my dad know, cause he was
wounded in the First World War he wouldn’t touch nothing like that. But we would. But we never let
him know.
l: What was it like after, who were people blaming?
AM; Well, they reckon – ldon’t know, we did have the guns in the park, in the little park. We call it
the Barmy Park, it’s where the library is. Someone said it was one of them, and someone shouted
and they all rushed. That was as far as I know. And another little bit, my friend who got killed, her
father, Tommy Chandler, married Stella Odell’s mother after. How that came about I don’t know. I
don’t think I seen him after she was buried.
l: You talk about your friend – what was her full name?
AM: Doreen. Doreen Chandler, don’t know if she had a second name.
l: Was it spoken about in the community afterwards, the disaster?
AM: lt was a big deal at the time, you know. I was really upset cause we got quite close friends. But
it’s like everything else, time goes on. I had a young fellow next-door-but-one from me, aircraft pilot,
l’m not sure what he was, pilot or… can’t think of the word, when they do allthe sections. You
know? Like geography, but they sort out… navigator, ain’t it? He was killed then, he was about
twenty-four. He got buried from the street, St Jude’s Street. He had like the flag and the whatsit all
come down for him like, you know. There were so many things really happened that you know.
There was a pub along the road, The College Arms, that got bombed. And there used to be two
young boys in there, it was… he got killed. His sister used to go and help him. Course she had her
two little boys with her. One’s nearly as old as me. The other one died, Dickie. And then she had a
younger one after the war. Her husband come home and he died. They got bombed out. But thank
God they got out of it her and the boys but Harry got killed. But people was getting killed
everywhere, so you know. When we got bombed out there was a fish shop. Just round the corner
from Russia Lane. There used to be a pub on the corner called The Albert. And this fish shop was
always busy, His brother worked in there as well. You know when you’re a kid you’re going: Can we
have some crackling? They used to give it, you know. Everyone knew him. And then after the war
she’d go… I don’t know if it was one of her family. She survived the bombing in Cambridge Heath
Road, just along the fish shop there. Then I don’t know what happened to her, I suppose she died.
They were nice people. I think Manny’s brother died, I think he had a brother work there as well.
(brief pause)
AM: ls that it?
l: With the disaster, did you identify the bodies? Did you ever hear about stories?
AM: No. They asked me if I wanted to see Doreen. She was buried from her grandmother’s house
and that was round the corner from us in Poyser Street. But I wouldn’t. When I was young, you don’t
associate death when you’re young. You think you’re immortal, don’t you? All of a sudden you
realise you’re not. (laughs)
(pa use)
l: Can you tell us a little bit more about the Krays?
AM: No I can’t really because I only knew the mother, but only as a neighbour to say hello to and her
sister. I didn’t know Rose. That was Billy Wilsher’s mum. What was the other sister? There was
another sister. Always used to talk to her, she used to come along with Charles Dickens House. I
can’t think of her name now. You forget things when you get older. That’s about it. I can’t tell you
anything about’em. My brother, cause he’d lived there quite a while, was quite friendly with them.
Not really with him so much as with Charlie Kray. Charlie Kray and his wife used to come over to
their house and talk. They were villains and that’s it, wasn’t they.
l: Did you hear things about them at that time?
A: No. Funnily enough no-one local did talk about ’em really. I suppose if you’re used to someone,
unless they interfere with you or something like that, I don’t think you take any notice. My
grandmother’s shop was round the corner here, they was in there for eighty odd years.
l: What shop was that?
AM: lt’s got an Asian gown shop now. They just used to make wreaths and all that. Actually, their
name is in the.,, one of the books of workshops, I can’t remember his name. A Jewish man. I know I
got it out of the library. They mentioned him there, and like people that used to make furniture, bits
of furniture. Two of my brothers, that’s what they done, they made furniture. Tables and that. One
of my brothers I think done a trolley for Princess Anne. Polished it. He was a polisher, and he was an
absolutely lovely man as well. That’s what they done.
l: A lot of carpentry, all the bars would have… you know, the bars would be made in mahogany and
things like that.
AM: Well I think all of Shoreditch used to be cabinet makers and that, I know my mum’s father had a
workshop in, you know when you cross over from Columbia Road, not Cremer Street. You can just go
up the next one,.. I can’t remember the name of that now neither. I can walk it. But can’t think of the
name of it. Kingsland Road. He had a workshop there. They lived over that way more. You know. And
they had a great big family, but I hardly knew any of them. They all make their own way, don’t they.
Or they did. I don’t know if they still do. (laughs)
l: With the Krays, when did you first hear about any trouble with them then?
AM: I think I lived here by then. I suppose my brother would have heard more but he never ever said
anything to us. But as I said, when they live local… they used to use the pub over the road we used
to use. You never… no-one took no notice of them, One of the vicars was always with them. The
church over there, St Matthews. That was it. Other than that I didn’t know nothing about him. I
think Billy Wilsher’s mum was Rose, and I knew him, Billy well. lt was really through him that Charlie
Kray and Dolly used to go over. Because he really was my brother’s friend, him and his wife Nora.
Even his grandson, one of them used to live down in the bottom. That’s as much as I know, really. I
used to always speak to his mum. His gran and grandfather used to be there, You know where them
new houses been, them self-build houses. That’s where they used to live in the little house there,
right next to Cheshire Street near the baths you know. That’s where they used to live. Other than
that I don’t know nothing about them.
{brief pause)
AM: He stopped in front of me. I was never a smatl person. He stood right in front of me, so I said,
well hello, don’t you know your old mate’s brother, I said looking at him. He had the most beautiful
curly hair, blond hair. He never had a hair on his head. Whether it was the bombing or the tube
disaster I don’t know. But I said, blimey, I said what happened, I said I didn’t recognise… I didn’t.
Although his face hadn’t changed really when I looked at him. But I never even associated with him.
It just shows you… he never had no hair. ,And I never kept in touch with Pat which was my fault really
cause she used to write to me. But in the finish ljust let it go, which was wrong really of me, but
that’s what happened.
l: lf you could just go back at the beginning of that story, abut being in the Eingo? lf you could just
tell us again?
AM: lt’s on there, innit?
l: We didn’t have the beginning…
AM: Oh well, I went to the Bingo with my sister. And I went down to buy ice cream in the interval.
And he came along and stopped in front of me and said, don’t you know your old friend’s brother?
And I said, who it was, but he never had no hair. Cause when I knew him he had lovely blond curly
hair, which was strange, cause they were dark. They had dark hair, his mother. His mother was a
lovely, beautiful-looking woman. She was lovely. That’s it.
l: Well thanks Ada, for taking part and telling us all you know.
AM: Sorry I can’t tell you any more.
NB: Ada talks a little more about the area as it used to be, particularly the local shops, and people
being relocated after the war.

Anna Reid
Born 15 years after the disaster, Anna grew up knowing that her great
grandmother died on the underground steps. Years later she took her nan to see the plaque in Bethnal Green, and visited old friends of hers. Listening to their stories brought out the poignancy and relevance of the disaster to Anna and what was a ‘bit of history’ became stories of real people.
hrlemarial Frojecf
. ,.. ._ i:: ,
lvternorial Froject
BethnalGreen Memorial Proiect: Oral Histcry Summary
Catalogue Number: lnterviewee/s:
Ada Magnus
lnterviewer/s:
Philip and Amy
Date of lnterview:
28 January 2014
Location: Length of interview:
25 minutes
Any other infc
Time:
0:00
1:30
3:40
6:15
8:30
10:00
11;00
L4:00
L7:00
L8:45
Summary;
lntroduction, Description of Ada’s childhood and family background. She hardly
attended school until she was fourteen, when she left school to work.
Ada remembers being bombed out for the first time. She and her sister found shelter
with relatives for a while.
At fourteen, Ada started working as a machinist. She describes how several of her
friends and colleagues died in the Bethnal Green tube disaster. She was attending a film
screening that night.
After the film, Ada went home and later went to an air raid shelter, while some of her
friends ended up going to the tube station. Ada didn’t hear about what had happened
until the next day.
Ada can’t remember much about the days before the disaster, She recalls going to the
shelter frequently, windows covered in cardboard, and queuing up for rations. She also
recalls getting some good on the black market.
She is aware of the guns stationed in Barmy Park around the time of the disaster and
that they are assumed to have caused the noise that started the disaster.
After the disaster, Ada moved on with life. She describes her relationship with a young
pilot who also died. She also remembers a pub that was later destroyed by bombs.
Ada never had to identify any of the bodies, and turned down the offer to see her
friend Doreen for a last time.
She speaks about her family history in cabinet making.
Ada tells a story about going to the Bingo and running into her brother’s friend and how
they had been affected by the disaster.
I
22:34 She remembers a row of little shops, including a fish and chip shop, that no longer exist.
She speaks about how people were scattered and relocated as a result of the war, and
she lost touch with many.
ffi*el-*r*a$ ffir**r”r
Memorial Project
Bethnal Green Memorial Project lnteruiew Transcript
lnterviewee (AM): Ada Magnus
lnterviewer {l}: Philip Sunshine, Amy Cooper
Date: 28 January 2014
Location: Ada’s home
l: Hello, this is Philip Sunshine with Amy Cooper interviewing Ada Magnus for the Bethnal Green
Memorial Trust on the 28th Jan 2014. First of all I’d like to thank you Ada for taking part in this.
AM: You’re quite welcome.
l: I’d like to ask you to describe your early life and background of your life and family. School, leisure
and work.
AM: I was born in Russia Lane and Mowlem Street school, then the war broke out. I did go to school
for a little while at Whitstable, then my mum, I was the youngest, so she didn’t, she came in, I never
went to school til I left, nearly fourteen. So I suppose really I’m a dumbhead. {laughs)
l: What about your friends? Playing out on the street?
AM: You couldn’t, could you? You used to get bombing raids in the day. I wasn’t kept in, I used to go
out, but you couldn’t go far because you had to go in the shelters. We used to go to – I did get
bombed out in 1940, the first lot of bombing. I lived on the corner of Russia Lane and Robinson
Road. And we had to get out right away, we were but in Globe Road school. And my dad was a
dustman. And we weren’t in there for long, couple of hours after the night. We wasn’t pulled out, we
walked out. He said to my mum, I found a place. lt was in Treadway Street, but that didn’t have any
back on either. But he wouldn’t stay in the – I can’t remember what it was called now, but you went
there when you got bombed out. They take em in churches and all that. lt was just for when you was
bombed out. But only when you were bombed out, he was quite an independent man, And we
stayed there and my sister was having a very nervous time. She was getting bad with nerves. And we
went down to my sister in law’s aunt in Whitstable for a little while. Stayed there. Eventually we
came back, and by then they lived in Granby Street, which was a better house but we still had to go
down the shelter every night. And we used to go down Godfrey Phillips, there was a big tobacco
place. Cause my mum worked there, so she was allowed to use this shelter in the night and you
never even heard the bombing down there. I think I was about twelve when we moved to St Jude’s
Road. I was there til I got married. I went to school from there. lt’s Lawdale now, it was Lawrence
then. And I left at fourteen and went to work.
l: What sort of work did you take on?
AM: I went machining at first but it wasn’t so good, I’m not so good with the eyes. And my friend
who got killed was quite bright. She was quite a clever girl. She had a brother that had already been
to Parmiters- when this happened. And I think that what happened with him – I think they mainly
went for him because he was so nervous. And then he became the caller – I don’t know why,
because he was quite a clever fella. He was about three years older than me. He became the caller
for the Bingo in Hackney Road. His name was Tommy Chandler, the same as his father. I was friends
with them. With Doreen more, she had another sister Pat. Tommy and Pat got out of that, they was
in that. Pat I think had done nursing. She was also quite bright, they were quite bright allof them.
(XXX) I didn’t go friends with her like. She’d only live round the corner from me. A very nice quiet
sorta girl she was. And she got killed. lthink she was about thirteen as well, same as us. But she just
turned fourteen, Doreen. And cause her birthday was in January. We’d been to this picture palace, I
think it was King’s Row, I think it was Ronald Reagan, the ex-president, better actor than a
president… I shouldn’t say.
l: Most people would agree with you on that. (laughs)
AM: lliked him.
l: What was this cinema called?
AMr lt was originally called Smarts. That would have been in your dad’s time. And then it was called
The Rex. lt went to The Rex, and then it was the Essoldo I think. lt was only a flat one like the
museum one in Cambridge Heath Road. We came out from there cause the raid went, I better go. I
said alrightthen. lleft herthere because lonly livedthrough Hollybush Gardens in StJude’s Road.
And I never knew no more about it til the next morning, cause we was in the shelter as well. But
apparently they heard a noise, and I’m still not sure which part they was crushed in. I take it it must
have been the first part, because they said they was all crushed on the stairs. And her mother was a
very good-looking woman. She was only young, thirty-something. Very filmstar-ish to me, cause my
murn had me when she was forty, you know what I mean. The only impression I got was my sister,
cause she used to be quite smart and all that, There were dresses then, weren’t there, at that age.
And that was it. And I left her out there, and I didn’t know no more. And Dickie Corbett, the boxer, I
did know his son, he died there.
l: Was that his boxing name, Dickie Corbett? Cause… Richard Coleman, wasn’t he, as well?
AM: They said that was his name, but I never thought of it like that. Just called him Dickie Corbett
And I think Doreen’s mum’s name was Lil, I think. I can’t remember really now, it was such a long
while ago. Although when I go to the library I always go and look at the thing. Always go.
l: So can you tell us a little bit more about Dickie?
AM: No, I didn’t know much about him. I didn’t know much. lf a couple of my brothers would have
been alive, they woulda told you because one of my brothers did box for the Territorials and all that,
you know. And I don’t think Dickie would’ve been as old as him. Cause he was twenty years older
than me, he was the first in the family. But the two or three older ones might have been able to say
something. But they’re all gone now, I’m the only one left out of us.
l: You spoke a bit about the disaster. But leading up to the disaster, what was the days leading up to
the disaster like?
AM: I can’t remember really, just used to go. To be truthful, you had to come out of the shelter early,
get ready. lt wasn’t any life really. Mostly your windows was card boarded up or boxed up. Which to
me was horrible. Absolutely horrible. Like they all have blinds now, and I hate blinds. I won’t have
blinds. Only in the kitchen ‘cos l’d had to have the cooker put near the sink. But other than that I
won’t have blinds. You went to the shelter, you’d come home, they went to work or to school, you’d
done what you could. Sometimes you just got cleared up, there’d been a little bit of bombing near
you, yourd come home to an houseful of dust and soot again. That’s what it was. Then you had to
queue up for a lot of things. You know, you got rations, but you got to queue up for some things.
Unless you got a bit black market, which we all did. But we couldn’t let my dad know, cause he was
wounded in the First World War he wouldn’t touch nothing like that. But we would. But we never let
him know.
l: What was it like after, who were people blaming?
AM; Well, they reckon – ldon’t know, we did have the guns in the park, in the little park. We call it
the Barmy Park, it’s where the library is. Someone said it was one of them, and someone shouted
and they all rushed. That was as far as I know. And another little bit, my friend who got killed, her
father, Tommy Chandler, married Stella Odell’s mother after. How that came about I don’t know. I
don’t think I seen him after she was buried.
l: You talk about your friend – what was her full name?
AM: Doreen. Doreen Chandler, don’t know if she had a second name.
l: Was it spoken about in the community afterwards, the disaster?
AM: lt was a big deal at the time, you know. I was really upset cause we got quite close friends. But
it’s like everything else, time goes on. I had a young fellow next-door-but-one from me, aircraft pilot,
l’m not sure what he was, pilot or… can’t think of the word, when they do allthe sections. You
know? Like geography, but they sort out… navigator, ain’t it? He was killed then, he was about
twenty-four. He got buried from the street, St Jude’s Street. He had like the flag and the whatsit all
come down for him like, you know. There were so many things really happened that you know.
There was a pub along the road, The College Arms, that got bombed. And there used to be two
young boys in there, it was… he got killed. His sister used to go and help him. Course she had her
two little boys with her. One’s nearly as old as me. The other one died, Dickie. And then she had a
younger one after the war. Her husband come home and he died. They got bombed out. But thank
God they got out of it her and the boys but Harry got killed. But people was getting killed
everywhere, so you know. When we got bombed out there was a fish shop. Just round the corner
from Russia Lane. There used to be a pub on the corner called The Albert. And this fish shop was
always busy, His brother worked in there as well. You know when you’re a kid you’re going: Can we
have some crackling? They used to give it, you know. Everyone knew him. And then after the war
she’d go… I don’t know if it was one of her family. She survived the bombing in Cambridge Heath
Road, just along the fish shop there. Then I don’t know what happened to her, I suppose she died.
They were nice people. I think Manny’s brother died, I think he had a brother work there as well.
(brief pause)
AM: ls that it?
l: With the disaster, did you identify the bodies? Did you ever hear about stories?
AM: No. They asked me if I wanted to see Doreen. She was buried from her grandmother’s house
and that was round the corner from us in Poyser Street. But I wouldn’t. When I was young, you don’t
associate death when you’re young. You think you’re immortal, don’t you? All of a sudden you
realise you’re not. (laughs)
(pa use)
l: Can you tell us a little bit more about the Krays?
AM: No I can’t really because I only knew the mother, but only as a neighbour to say hello to and her
sister. I didn’t know Rose. That was Billy Wilsher’s mum. What was the other sister? There was
another sister. Always used to talk to her, she used to come along with Charles Dickens House. I
can’t think of her name now. You forget things when you get older. That’s about it. I can’t tell you
anything about’em. My brother, cause he’d lived there quite a while, was quite friendly with them.
Not really with him so much as with Charlie Kray. Charlie Kray and his wife used to come over to
their house and talk. They were villains and that’s it, wasn’t they.
l: Did you hear things about them at that time?
A: No. Funnily enough no-one local did talk about ’em really. I suppose if you’re used to someone,
unless they interfere with you or something like that, I don’t think you take any notice. My
grandmother’s shop was round the corner here, they was in there for eighty odd years.
l: What shop was that?
AM: lt’s got an Asian gown shop now. They just used to make wreaths and all that. Actually, their
name is in the.,, one of the books of workshops, I can’t remember his name. A Jewish man. I know I
got it out of the library. They mentioned him there, and like people that used to make furniture, bits
of furniture. Two of my brothers, that’s what they done, they made furniture. Tables and that. One
of my brothers I think done a trolley for Princess Anne. Polished it. He was a polisher, and he was an
absolutely lovely man as well. That’s what they done.
l: A lot of carpentry, all the bars would have… you know, the bars would be made in mahogany and
things like that.
AM: Well I think all of Shoreditch used to be cabinet makers and that, I know my mum’s father had a
workshop in, you know when you cross over from Columbia Road, not Cremer Street. You can just go
up the next one,.. I can’t remember the name of that now neither. I can walk it. But can’t think of the
name of it. Kingsland Road. He had a workshop there. They lived over that way more. You know. And
they had a great big family, but I hardly knew any of them. They all make their own way, don’t they.
Or they did. I don’t know if they still do. (laughs)
l: With the Krays, when did you first hear about any trouble with them then?
AM: I think I lived here by then. I suppose my brother would have heard more but he never ever said
anything to us. But as I said, when they live local… they used to use the pub over the road we used
to use. You never… no-one took no notice of them, One of the vicars was always with them. The
church over there, St Matthews. That was it. Other than that I didn’t know nothing about him. I
think Billy Wilsher’s mum was Rose, and I knew him, Billy well. lt was really through him that Charlie
Kray and Dolly used to go over. Because he really was my brother’s friend, him and his wife Nora.
Even his grandson, one of them used to live down in the bottom. That’s as much as I know, really. I
used to always speak to his mum. His gran and grandfather used to be there, You know where them
new houses been, them self-build houses. That’s where they used to live in the little house there,
right next to Cheshire Street near the baths you know. That’s where they used to live. Other than
that I don’t know nothing about them.
{brief pause)
AM: He stopped in front of me. I was never a smatl person. He stood right in front of me, so I said,
well hello, don’t you know your old mate’s brother, I said looking at him. He had the most beautiful
curly hair, blond hair. He never had a hair on his head. Whether it was the bombing or the tube
disaster I don’t know. But I said, blimey, I said what happened, I said I didn’t recognise… I didn’t.
Although his face hadn’t changed really when I looked at him. But I never even associated with him.
It just shows you… he never had no hair. ,And I never kept in touch with Pat which was my fault really
cause she used to write to me. But in the finish ljust let it go, which was wrong really of me, but
that’s what happened.
l: lf you could just go back at the beginning of that story, abut being in the Eingo? lf you could just
tell us again?
AM: lt’s on there, innit?
l: We didn’t have the beginning…
AM: Oh well, I went to the Bingo with my sister. And I went down to buy ice cream in the interval.
And he came along and stopped in front of me and said, don’t you know your old friend’s brother?
And I said, who it was, but he never had no hair. Cause when I knew him he had lovely blond curly
hair, which was strange, cause they were dark. They had dark hair, his mother. His mother was a
lovely, beautiful-looking woman. She was lovely. That’s it.
l: Well thanks Ada, for taking part and telling us all you know.
AM: Sorry I can’t tell you any more.
NB: Ada talks a little more about the area as it used to be, particularly the local shops, and people
being relocated after the war.

Babette Clark
As an 11 year-old in 1943, Babette and her family regularly used the Bethnal Green underground shelter. On that night, when her mum ‘gave a funny little nervous cough’, she knew it meant she and her sister would be told to get their bundles together and get to the bus stop. They just missed one bus and were consequently not far down the underground stairs when the crush began.

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BethnalGreen Memorial Project: Oral History Summary
Catalogue Number: lnterviewee/s:
Babette Clark
lnterviewerfs:
David Williams, Amy Cooper
Date of lnterview:
9 October 2013
Location:
Romford
Length of interview:
36 minutes
Any other infc
Time:
0:00
2:00
5:00
6:00
8:00
10:15
13:00
Summary; (Part 1)
lntroduction. Babs has been happy to speak about the disaster in the past, while other
family members were not.
Babs speaks about experiencing WW2 bombings as a child, quizzing her mother about
her experience of WWl, and later speaking to her own children about the war. She took
shelter regularly in the tube station. Brief evacuation to Devon during the Blitz.
Babs’ father was a civilian driver for the Navy, he transferred to Plymouth to escape the
Blitz, but the family returned to London after Plymouth was also bombed and stayed
until the end of the war.
Details about the tube station shelter: bunks, a library, ‘typieal’East End community
structures. Babs recalls the communal bucket toilets in the tunnel, the lack of personal
hygiene, and the resulting bad smell.
The family’s bundles were always packed, ready for evacuation. They included food if
the alarm allowed enough time. After any big raid in Germany, a respective raid in
London \ /as expected and the family would sleep in the tube station. Otherwise, they
used a more provisional shelter in the yard.
3 March L943: Babs remembers the night clearly. She was L1″ years old at the time.
Warning sirens around 8pm, the family took a bus to the shelter and queued for a
space in the tunnel, which was completely dark due to the blackout and wet due to
rain. She remembers searchlights and rockets, and resulting panic of people trying to
get into the shelter in the dark,
Babs describes how she later learned that the woman and baby at the bottom of the
stairs tripped, and were trampled by the crowd. She recalls tripping, and being pulled
up and out by her sister and an air raid warden. Her sister, wanting to return to find
their mother, was pointed to a room filled with bodies from the disaster. Meanwhile,
their mother had survived elsewhere, and they were reunited.
15:45
l-7:00
18:00
0:00
0:45
t:45
8:00
10:00
13:00
3:00
5:00
Babs saw countless bodies lying on the pavement outside the tube in the rain, waiting
to be taken to the morgue.
Babs’ father, who had been searching for his family in the tunnel, is reunited with them.
Upon returning to school, Babs finds several of her classmates missing, some of whom
had been killed in the disaster.
{Break) (Part 2)
Babs speaks of the disaster being hushed up by the government.
She tries to recall the names of and details about her dead and injured classmates.
Memories of the disaster faded after the war. Babs became a dressmaking apprentice.
She remembers Bethnal Green tube station opening, but can’t recall any contemporary
com m unity remembra nce efforts.
Babs learns about Bethnal Green memorial service from the paper, which she attended.
Babs agrees that people’s experiences have less impact on their children’s and more on
their grandchildren’s generation. She recalls loving her own grandmother’s stories, and
how her grandchildren took interest in her husband’s military service.
She considers herself an East Ender, despite having lived elsewhere for many years, and
loves visiting the area. She defends her memory of the way of life in the Bethnal Green
community, and doesn’t like the ways in which it has changed, She describes herself as
someone old-fashioned, who doesn’t like change.
Babs speaks about some examples of community support in Bethnal Green, and doubts
the same support still exists between neighbours today.
She speculates about the community ties that might exist in today’s East End immigrant
communities. The interviewer speaks about London’s history of immigration. Both
discuss where various parts of London’s population will move to next, and comment on
how difficult it would be today to cover up a similar disaster.
h’lern*rial Prcjeet
Bethnal Green ililemsrial Project lntersie$r Transcript
lnterviewee (BC): Babette Clark
lnterviewer {l}: David Williams, Amy Cooper
Date: 9 October 2013
Location: Collier Row, Romford
{Part 1i
l: Ok, here we are in Collier Row and this is an interview with Babs Clark, who was the youngest
survivor… ?
BC: No, no, lwasn’t…
l: Oh no of course, if you were born in 1931.
BC: I wasn’t the youngest, there was babies saved,
l: Right, l’ll tell you where l’i[ start. Let’s start, say, six years ago. Because that’s not very fong ago,
and that’s forty years, fifty years after it all happened…
BC: Sixty years.
l: Sixty years. Did it fade from your mind in that sixty years? What happened in between times? Did
you just get on with your life or what?
BC: [Clip: Long-term impact] [Clip:Culturalsilencing]Yeah,ldefinitelygot on with me life. lcould
talk about it to people, you know, if anything ever came up about Bethnal Green when we were
living here. People say: Oh, did you hear anything about the disaster? And I’d say, yeah, I was in it.
And that was it, and push it to one side. My sister, who was sixteen at the time, she would never
ever talk about it. Never. And my mum didn’t very much. But apart from that, no, I mean. I told my
husband about it. One of those things that had happened in the past.
l: How old were you at the time?
BC: Eleven.
l: Maybe it was just – I hate to say this – a kind of childish adventure, wasn’t it? lt was something
that was happening?
BC: Yes, yes. People have said, weren’t it terrifying in the war? But as kids, you didn’t think of it.
[Clip: Air raids] Alright, you were frightened, we didn’t have an Anderson shelter, cause we only had
a back yard. So we had a Morrison shelter. That was one of those metal contraptions. And you’d be
lying in there some nights if the warning hadn’t gone too late, and you’d hear the guns go or the
bombs comin’, but apart from that, as kids, you don’t look upon it like… it was like, before the war
started, Second World War started, we’d say to our mum, what was it like in the war? And she used
to tell us stories, we used to love that. And then my boys were saying that to me, What was it like in
the war, mum? But I can only talk about it from a child’s point of view. You’d go to school in the
morning and there’d be lumps of shrapnel you’d pick up in playground and who had the most, and
have fights over it and all this sort of thing. But no, I can’t say. lt wos frightening that night with all
the pushing, but apart from that, no.
l: Tell me about the shelter, because this was a shelter that was – it took, what, 2000 people down
the tube station?
BC: The tube, yeah.
I: Had you been down there many times? Before that fateful night?
BC: Oh yeah, we used to sleep down there quite a lot. Cause although we were evacuated, sent
away for evacuation to Devon, that was like privately cause my mum had a relative living down near
Torquay and she sent my sister and I away. And when the Blitz started, my father got worried about
my mum. And he got her to come down, so that was how we coms to move nearer into Torquay
itself. And I think all her family arrived, grandmother and aunts and uncles and that. What was I
gonna say? lt’s gone. I get these lapses. (laughs)
l: We allget these lapses.
BC: lt’s terrible, it is. But mum, she was an East Ender. Suddenly there was a lull, the blitz ended and
there was a lull. We moved backto London, my mum and l, left my sisterthere livingwith my
grandmother. She didn’t want to come back. She’d just started work with a prudential insurance
company that had been evacuated down there. So then we came back, and then the bombing
started, So my dad said, you better go back again, so we went back to Torquay again, because in
between all this we’re going to school like normal and pryin’ in bomb sites and all sorts of… and then
we went back to Torquay and the bombing started and mum got worried about my father. He was a
civilian driver for the Royal Navy. So she got him to put in for a transfer down to Plymouth. He
arrived there just when the Plymouth Blitz went on. So poor devil had gone through all the Blitz in
London, the bombing, and arrives down there, and that was when it stopped a bit in London so mum
said, right, we’re goin back home again. Come back home. We were there when the doodlebug
started, but we stayed there for that. Mum said * my mum could cuss – I’m not going down there
again. We stayed there in London all through the doodlebugs and the rockets, right until the end of
the war.
l: The area down at the tube, there were bunks, there was a library… it was like a community, like an
East End community underground.
BC: fClip: tube shelter] lt was. I don’t know if you realise, but they never ever had trains come
through because it was just before the start of the Second World War they finished the tunnel into
Bethnal Green. So there was no tracks, anything laid. And that was how we all come to sleep in the
tunnels. I think there was a bit of dissension about letting people go in there, but eventually… oh
yeah, it was a big community and everybody knew everybody. lt was a typical East End affair, with
everybody match in with each other.
l: I had a conversation yesterday, as I say, with Bob Saxon. He said he didn’t like the smell down
there.
BC: No, it was horrible. I can remember that.
l; We can’t record smells, but…
BC: [Clip: tube shelter] No. Well, there was no… as you got to the bottom of the stairs which is now
the escalator, I think there was communal toilets there but they were only the chemical ones. Of
course the ones you got right down in the tunnel were buckets with chemical in it. lt did whiff down
there, believe me.
l: And allthose bodies as well.
BC: I know. lt wasn’t like now, people bathing or showering every day. lt was a once a month sort of
thing, whether you needed it or not.
l: But everybody got on, didn’t they?
BC: Oh yeah, it was typical East End, it really was the East End at its best, believe me, it really was.
l: Did you take food down there?
BC: I suppose a lot of them must have done, lf the warning started early, eight o’clock or something
like that, mum would say, come and get your bundles, which were always made up, sittin in the
front room, and we’d go down there. We lived in Old Ford Road, facing what used to be the Lido,
that part of Victoria Park, so we weren’t far from… it was called the… where St Barnabas church was,
not Salmon and Ball, I can’t think of the name of the pub now.
l: On the corner. lt was the Salmon and…
BC: No, Salmon and Ball, that was at Bethnal Green itself. This was down where I lived. The Earl of
Aberdeen” We were at the St Barnabas church here, Earl of Aberdeen over there. But it was always
known as the Aberdeen. And it wasn’t all that far. But it was only, we didn’t used to go down there
every night, it was only if you kind of knew that there’d been a big raid in Germany, you knew within
a few nights, you were gonna get a big raid. As I say, the Blitz had finished by this time, we weren’t
living there then, thank God, every night, when it was happening when they were doin the docks in.
But if it went later and we were already in bed, as I say, we had a Morrison shelter we used to get in,
which we didn’t really like, but it was something to get in.
l: That big iron contraption with the grills. And if you sat up too quickly you bashed your head on the
ceiling.
BC: When ours was taken down I think they found there was six nests of mice all underneath. Cause
my mum kept wondering why the pillows were shredding and alf that. Well while we were asleep
the mice were havin a go. {laughs)
l: Let’s go on to the night of March 3, L943,can you remember it vividly or does it sort of…
BC: fClip: disaster] No, it’s one night I can really remember. I don’t know why, but lcan remember it.
The warning went about eight o’clock, just after eight o’clock. Sounded like that. Mum said, right,
gave a funny little nervous cough, and sald, right. My sister and I used to look at each other and go,
she’s gonna tell us to get the bundles, and she did, and off we trekked. We got round to the, the
Aberdeen pub and a bus had just left which my mum wasn’t at all happy. Few cuss words” And all of
a sudden another one came trundling along. Realise now, if we’d gone on that first bus, we’d have
been killed. We would’ve been right in it. We got the other bus, got down to the tube, There was a
queue of people end you’ve gotta realise, it was absolutely pitch black cause of the blackout. lt was
raining, it was a horrible cold damp night so you couldn’t even get any light from the moon. Which
was a good thing. Cause if it was a bombers moon you’d have had the planes over. And we were all
just queuing up to go in, and everyone talking to each other, and search lights went up although
there was no planes. But I can remember the search lights. Going up and crossing and all that. And
then all of a sudden there was terrible noise. I can still hear it like, like hundreds of rockets goin up in
the air. lt was awful, the noise. Really loud. lt went right through your ears. And as it went they
whistled like some of the bombs used to when they came down.
That was when people started pushing, and of course by this time the queue had got quite long
because they had given out in the cinemas that there was a raid on, whoever wanted to go used to
go, if not they stayed there. 5o of course they turned out, and that was when the pushing started.
Unbeknown to us, some poor woman at the bottom of the stairs, cause there was nineteen steps
down, and then you come to this landing and then you turned right into what is now the big booking
hall. And it was this nineteen steps which had no handrail, they were wooden steps, and they were
slippery from the rain. Cause all you had was a iittle doorway into it where a policeman used to
stand, but he wasn’t there for some reason that night. And you just had this little tiny blue light. 5o I
mean, there was no light, and even down the stairs, you kind of knew where you were going. And
unbeknown to us, this poor woman carrying a baby or a child had tripped at the bottom, had pulled
another man with her, and everybody was all goin on top of her, and that was her finished. They
were evidently piled high right to the ceiling on this landing, all the way back up the stairs. I can
remember hanging on to my sister’s coat, and we got near enough to the top of the stairs, and I can
remember falling over, I don’t know what it was, but I tripped over something.
And Jean pulled me up, which was good of her, cause you know what it’s like, elder sister and
younger sister, you don’t get on. I know somebody, must’ve been an air raid warden, pulled Jean
out. Cause I can remember her saying, I’ve got my sister here, l’ve got my sister here. We were sent
over to the Salmon and Ball, there was a shelter. Funny place, shelter right underneath the railway
arch. We got over there, was a lot of people that we knew. I hadn’t been long out of hospital having
me appendix out, and Jean sat me down and said, you sit there. She evidently was goin round asking
if anyone had seen our mum, cause we didn’t know what had happened to her, where she’d gone.
The air raid warden said to my sister – I didn’t find this out until, crikey, I’m not sure she was dead
when I found this out through my niece – they made her go in that room and said, she might be in
there, and it was all dead bodies that Jean had to go in and look at. They had nowhere to put all the
bodies that they were bringing out. Thank God mum wasn’t there, she’d been pulled out and taken
over to the church.
How we all got together, I don’t know. But suddenly, we was with our mum, and mum sayin, come
on, we’re goin home. I think we lost our bundles, which mum was quite upset about. We got home,
walked home. Early hours of the morning. I can vaguely remember looking across at where the tube
was, and there was all the people lying on the pavement. And I said to my mum, hey mum, look,
they’re all gonna get wet, I assumed they were all tired, But they were bodies that they had brought
out and laid them there. Cause the ambulances couldn’t take them away quickly enough to the
different morgues.
We got near enough home to Road and happened to see a policeman who lived a few doors up the
road said, you’ve been up there in the tube, he said, go indoors, l’ll come with you, my wife will
make you a cup of tea. Cause he was going back on duty out there. Evidently on the way up he saw
my dad. As I say, my dad had been a civilian driver for the Navy. I don’t know where his depot was,
but it had come through on the – however they communicated with them. And of course dad
thought, they were down there, so of course he dropped everything and he came to the tube and he
was helping to bring the dead out. Looking for us. And that was how eventually he came wandering
home, saw this policeman, he said, I can’t find them. Oh, don’t worry, Mr Nichols, they’re indoors
having a cup of tea. ln dad came. Big hugs and kisses and tears. I was only eleven and my dad was a
r
big man, very tall, very big. He was like a gentle giant. What I couldn’t get over was my dad crying.
My big dad crying. What’s my dad crying for? I realise now, why.
We’ve all gone indoors and gone to bed, and my mum got my sister up for work the next morning,
and me out to school. And I remember getting dressed and saying to mum, hey mum, look at this. I
was bruised from my shoulders right down, and so was my sister. So was mum. Anyway. I think I
went to school, there was quite a few kids there that weren’t there. Some had been killed that night,
others hadn’t gotten to school. They sent me home when they knew that l’d been in it. My aunt
came over to see what had happened, she lived in South London. And she phoned up the prudential
and said, would you mind sending Jean Sinclair home.
l: We’ll leave it there for the moment just to give you a bit of a breath.
BC: That was long, wasn’t it.
l: lt was very good.
{Part 2)
BC: lt was only in latter years that I’ve heard that it was hushed up on.”. Winston Churchill hushed it
up cause it was for the morale of the people…
l: Did your parents talk about it? Were you aware that they were talking about it at home?
BC; No. Life just went on as normal, if you get me, if it was normal in those days. I mean, to kids, it
was normal, that was what you were living in.
l: But you went to school, there were friends that were no longer there?
BC: There was quite a few from my school who got killed in it. I can’t remember their names – I’ve
often looked at the names of the children, you know, on the list of who got killed, but I can’t place
any. Could’ve all been in my class. But, yeah, there were several children injured in it, I can
remember one boy comin’ in on crutches. But there again, with the bombing and all that, you were
used to kids with crutches. I mean, I fell over one night running when the air raid started, and I broke
the bone on the side of that foot, and my aunt gave me a piggy back to Bethnal Green Hospital, and
they just strapped it up, green stick fracture. I went to school hobbling, and I went to school. Kids
said, what’d you do? And I said, I fell over when the raid was on last night. And you just accepted it.
l; Did it then just fade away after the war and everything? Never talked about it?
BC: Oh yeah. Yeah. Whether it was because when the war just ended, I’d just got a job up in the
West End, I was an apprentice in dressmaking. [Clip: long-term impact] lt was quite a few months
after the war ended when they opened Bethnal Green tube station, and that was when I used to
think about it. I used to get off the bus at the Salmon and Ball, run down the steps, and that was
when I would think, this is where it all happened. And I suppose that helped to keep it going in my
mind. But apart from that you just got on with life and lived it and forgot about it.
l: So there was a sense in Bethnal Green that something had happened, but you were a child and
obviously you took a different view of it, but there wasn’t a great deal of talk about it. Things
happening in the school playground, and people lost their mums and dads, that sort of thing?
BC: Oh no. No. I mean, I didn’t know any children from our school that had lost a parent in it.
Whether they could’ve done, I don’t know. But you just didn’t, and that was it.
l: Tell me about the time when you saw the little piece in the paper.
BC: lClip: SHMT founding] When I contacted Alf? lt was just in one of the little free papers. I was
flickin through it. I think it was entitled Bethnal Green Memorial. lt caught my eye and I just read
that there was this memorial service at St John’s on the Green in Bethnal Green. I forget the actual
day, it was the beginning of March, and contact Alf. Gave his phone number, so I phoned him. Found
out when it actually was and all that, and he said, when you’re there, come and let me know who
you are. Which I did, but he just passed me over to Sandra, he said, you wanna go and see Sandra.
That was how I come to go to… I think there’d been one memorial service the year before, so I
wasn’t really at the beginning of it, cause Sandra didn’t know anything about it. Only through her
mother, hearing her mother talk to a reporter or something, but she didn’t know anything about it at
all. I made myself known to Sandra and she took my e-mail address, and it just blossomed on from
there. I would consider Sandra a friend, she really is a lovely person.
l: (to second interviewer) Have you got any questions that you can think about? Cause you come
from a different generation, and so therefore there may be things that l’ve completely overlooked.
12: Not that I can think of at the moment. I’ve been making notes.
l: The reason I was just making that point is that as we talked about earlier is that the experiences of
older people don’t seem to have a great deal of impact on children, but they have an impact on
grandchildren. Would you agree or disagree?
BC: Oh no, I agree with that. I do agree with that.
l: Why do you think it is that grandchildren have interest in what your life was like?
BC: I don’t know. Whether it’s – I used to love hearin stories from my grandmother. About when she
was small. Cause you don’t think of an old lady as being young, if you get me, you know. And get her
to talk about when she lived on the farm in Chingford. Which in her days of childhood would’ve been
miles out in the country, wouldn’t it.
l: You don’t have farms in Chingford anymore, do you?
BC: No, no. Roads, but not farms. I think it’s… I was just gonna try and explain it. Maybe it’s because
grandchildren, let’s face it, I think they like to listen to grandparents. More than what your own
children did. My boys used to laugh when we used to watch Dad’s Army on television when it very
first came on, when they were young. Was you in that, dad? To my husband. l’d say, your father was
in the Army. But to them, it was always in Dad’s Army.ll was that sort of thing. My grandson, I
mean, he was only young when Eric died, but he did see a photograph of my husband in his army
uniform. And he said, oh, when was that, grandad? And he said, that was when I was in the army?
He said, what, the proper Army? He said, yeah. lt was only his national service, but still, it sounded
good, didn’t it. What did you do, grandad? What could Eric say? The war ended, he did his time in
Germany, he wouldn’t go into what he got up to out there at the end of the war, which they could
get away with murder. (laughs) He said, well, I was in charge of the laundry, which tickled my
grandson.
l; You’ve actually summed it up very well there. The other thing that l’d like to ask you – you would
consider yourself an East Ender?
BC: Oh yeah, although l’ve lived here all this time, I am an Fast Ender. I wouldn’t like to live back
there again. By God, um. Well l’m like a tiger defending its cubs. Not like to live back there again. I
like going out there, but I’m glad when l’m on that train leaving it. Because it’s not my Bethnal Green
anymore. You walk down Bethnal Green Road, and maybe I shouldn’t say it but you’re looked at as if
you shouldn’t be in their country.
l: You said, ‘l defend it’, when I asked you the question about the East End. What are you defending
then?
BC: The way it used to be, not what it is now, but the way it used to be?
l: lsn’t that an age thing, when you get older?
BC: Oh yeah, definitely an age thing, yes. I don’t think I could ever defend Romford. Used to be a nice
place when we first moved there, but I wouldn’t say it was great, not like I do about Bethnal Green.
l: So you’re defending a way of life…
BCr Yes, definitely. The way of life, the way we were brought up. The camaraderie of it out there. lt
was the community, and I mean, I can always remember a man up our road went into prison. I don’t
know what he did, I was only a kid. Couldn’t have been anything really bad. But she had three
children, and she always used to say once he’d come out, she said it in front of him, and I could
remember her telling my mum this, and I was earwiggin’. I gotta tell you, mate, me and the kids
never once went without a dinner. When you were away. Cause all the neighbours all used to. I
remember my mum saying to me, take that up to Mrs Jones, she ain’t got nothin. And it’d be say,
three dinners in plates.
l: Do we like change?
BC: I don’t. (laughs) l’m old-fashioned. I mean, I don’t know. lt’s funny, I’ve seen it change down this
road. I’ve got a friend round the corner, she moved here. Her son must have been about two. My
youngest boy was about two and a half and their garden used to back on the end of mine and the
boys used to play together, so I’ve known them many, many years. And it was quite a close-knit
community down here, the kids used to play in the street, if you saw one of them you’d come in and
you’d see one of the kids, you’d say, where’s your mum? Oh, she’s out shoppin and dad’s at work.
And you’d say, well you come in here with me. You didn’t leave the kids out there, and you’d go, not
that we had telephones, but I’d send my eldest boy. See if Mrs so-and-so is in, if not, whatever his
name can have dinner with us. This is how it was. You never worried about your kids being left sittin
on the doorstep. I only heard it about three weeks ago, three weeks after it happened, this
particular son is fifty now, he’s been in a very very bad motorbike accident. He had to be air lifted to
London Hospital and that is where he still is. So I phoned down there and I spoke to his mum and I
said, I’ve only just found out, why didn’t you let me know? She said, well, I didn’t like to knock.
We’ve been friends all these years, Vera. She said, I know. But that atmosphere is gone, innit. Don’t
say that between you and me. lt’s three weeks since he’s been like he was, I’ve only just found out. I
said, don’t you dare leave me out of it. I said, you know what I am, I’m a nosy devil. I wanna know. I
said, I’ve watched that boy grow up.
l: You’re talking about East End values, aren’t you?
BC: Yes. We haven’t even got that down here now. I mean, I’ve got very good neighbours. lf I go
away I know they keep an eye on the house. But l’ve often wondered what would happen if I
dropped dead or something like that, l’d lie here until somebody thought, we ain’t seen her about
for a few days. lt’s gone, what it used to be like in the East End, and it’s even gone from here. Who
knows. With the Asian the families up there at the East End, they might have their own community
now, And that camaraderie. But I don’t know.
l: They do.
BC: What, they look out for each other.
I: They do. The great thing about London, about parts of Britain and certainly the East End is that it is
continually changed over 2000 years, with different groups coming in. Whether they were
Huguenots, whether they were the lrish, whether they were the Jews, continually coming in.
Settling, establishing their own communities and cultures, and then moving on again. And that will
continue to happen as we go through the next generation. You remember a particular period in
time, and you remember it with affection.
BC: Yes.
l: And I daresay that the Jewish population there, many of whom have moved away to Stamford Hill
and beyond, they remember it with affection. Because it isn’t like it is when I was there.
BC: No, especially down Brick Lane, no, it’s not,
l: That will happen when the Bangladeshis move on, the Somalis move on. But it will be a long, long
time before that happens, and that is usually what the East End and what London is all about. This
great sort of melting pot of people coming in, establishing what seems to be an overwhelming
presence, but then gradually moving out.
BC: I wonder where they’ll move to. Makes you wonder, dinnit. The East End has moved out Essex
way. South London moved out Brighton way. I don’t know where North or West went, never really
thought of it.
l: lt’s a very interesting subject. And you’ve been a very interesting subjecf so thank you for giving us
your time. Very interesting, thank you very much indeed.
BC: Oh, I do talk a lot. Might have been a load of tripe.
l: lt was not a load of tripe.
(Brief exchange between interviewers)
l: The events of that night and the subsequent cover-up are very well known.
BC: Oh yes.
l: Very well known, But I think what is interesting is really life in the East End at the time. How could
you cover up something like that at the time? lf you take our world today, if anything like that would
happen? Wow. Everybody would know, there would be the blame game. The classic case that we
know of our modern times is Hillsborough. And yet here we have a situation which in a sense is like
Hillsborough.
BC: l’ve said that all along. I’m glad they are, don’t get me wrong, but they’re getting all the
attention, we’re not. Once a year vre might get attention, when we have the memorial. And we did
get a lot of publicity this March, only because it was the 70th anniversary and it was all happening,
but come next year, it’ll be the 71’t anniversary. We’re not going to have that amount of media cover
for that, I don’t think we will. I’d like to think we would.

Barbara Bittle
A very young child born at the beginning of the Second World War, Barbara
only much later understood the significance of her father’s role in the disaster. Police Sergeant Richard Sharrock, based at Bethnal Green Police station, was on duty that night. He was sent to the underground station where he was one of the team moving bodies from the steps.

Memorial Prcject
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Bethnal Green MemsrialProject: Oral History Summary
Catalogue Number: lnterviewee/s:
Barbara Bittle
lnterviewer/s:
Dvora Liberman, Caroline Randall
Date of lnterview:
22 October 2013
Location: Length of interview:
37 minutes
Any other info
L. 20
Time:
0:00
1:30
5:30
7:00
9:45
17:00
19:00
21.:34
23:00
Summary:
lntroduction: Barbara was born in April 39 in Leytonstone at her family home.
Barbara knew about her father’s role in the disaster early on, but learned about the
memorial when her son, who lives in Bethnal Green, brought home one of the flyers
asking for donations for the Memorial Trust.
Barbara’s father was a police sergeant who helped clear the injured and dead from the
tube station. He didn’t speak much about it later and became very ill as a result, and
Barbara learned about the details from her mother. She doesn’t recall him receiving any
form of support.
Barbara’s father later died of bowel cancer, which she links to his trauma-induced
illness after the disaster.
Barbara remembers the war years more generally, and about the time her family spent
in evacuation in Lancashire.
Barbara speaks about how her parents met and built a life together. Her mother found
it difficult to make friends when moving to London and felt isolated and depressed. Her
father joined the police to follow his engineering career, but wasn’t cut out for the job
and changed professions in his forties.
Barbara pieced together little pieces of information about the disaster as a child, as her
parents didn’t like to speak about it.
Barbara speaks about the way she and her brother were affected by the aftermath of
the disaster, mainly through the trauma her parents had suffered.
Barbara remembers the relief and celebration at the end of the war, but recalls her
family dynamics still being troubled.
Barbara speaks about her memories of her grandmothers, both very strong women.
25:20 | She speaks about her marriage and young family in the 1960s, her divorce and meeting
her new partner.
Part 2
0:00 | Barbara tells the story of how she first heard about the memorial being set up; how
delighted she was when she discovered her father’s name would be on the memorial.
She discusses the importance of the memorial for younger generations, and the
memorial design. She regularly attends the memorial services.
07.40 | Recording ends
Seth na I G reen ll,le moria I Fraiect I nterview Tra nscript
lnterviewee {BB): Barbara Bittle
lnterviewer {l}; Dvora Liberman I Caroline Randall
Date: 22 October 2013
Location : Bethnal Green
l: This is Dvora Liberman and Caroline Randall on October 22and we’re here with Barbara Bittle.
BB: Hello.
l: First of all could you tell me when and where you were born?
BB: I was born in April ’39, which was the year the war broke out, in Leytonstone. lt was a home
birth, my mum and dad lived there at the time.
l; That’s really interesting. lt’s a home birth, Could you tell us a little more about what you know
about the family home?
BB: Well, my mother stayed there til she died. lt was her family home, Although she’d come down
from Lancashire to marry my dad. First of all they went to Walthamstow, lots of police went to
Walthamstow because they knew they could get a flat. And just before I was born they moved into
Leytonstone. My brother was aged eight at the time. No sorry, he was four.
l: And could you tell us a bit about your relationship with the Bethnal Green Tube Disaster? So why it
is that we’re here?
BB: I’d always known that my dad [Police Sergeant Richard Sharrock] was involved with an incident
in Bethnal Green, not quite clear exactly all about it. My son now lives in Bethnal 6reen and uses the
tube every day for work and came out of there really surprised to see them giving leaflets and asking
for money. So he got a leaflet for me. Shortly after that we were going away on a holiday and went
to Paddington, and saw them collecting there. And there was Sandra. That’s how we started to think
about it and get involved in some way.
l: [Clip: disaster] Could you tell us about your father, about his role? On that night?
BB; As far as I know he was a police sergeant at the time. He was made a police sergeant a few
months before. And he used to cycle to Bethnal Green from Leytonstone on his bike every day to
work, which we think took about an hour, through the bombing. On that particular day he started at
10pm at night. Obviously he was part of organising and helping clear the bodies from the steps.
l: How did you come to know this?
BB; My brother actually remembers our dad coming home that morning and telling… talking about
r
all the bodies laying out on the road as far as you could see, he described it. And the impact it had on
dad. But as I was only four I wasn’t aware on the actual day or around that time. I learned through
my mother more about it and what happened as I was growing up. Dad didn’t actually speak about it
much. [Clip: long-term impact] I suppose the next connection was dad was very ill with colitis a few
weeks or months after the disaster and spent a lot of time in 5t Thomas’s. My mother used to leave
me with a police wife. She used to go on the tube to Leytonstone to see dad. And I remember this
policeman’s wife picking me up, mum leaving and me screaming my head off. I didn’t want to be left
by mum. That sort of reinforces that something happened, I suppose.
l: And you were a litlle girl and there was that trauma. Your dad had been involved in that disaster
and then he wasn’t well.
BB: That’s right. I mean, I think we recognise that colitis is an emotional disorder. The balance that
probably, that’s how it came through in him, his experience. He didn’t talk about it. lt became a
physical…
l:And was there anyone? lt sounds like he spoke to your mother about it… were there other people,
did he receive any support?
BB: l’m not aware of it. I think mum said as well that he didn’t talk much about it. Perhaps he did
initially and then that was it.
l: What kind of impact do you think the event had on him? Of course you’ve just spoken about the
colitis as a very immediate sort of impact. But long term?
BB: I don’t know. The other part of colitis was that he died of bowel cancer. I think it’s well known
that the scarring that colitis causes can create a cancer in the bowel now. So in actual fact it sort of
came back when he was sixty and he died from the bowel cancer, i think during the intervening
years he buried it a bit. He was that sort of person so I imagine that’s what happened. He didn’t
speak freely about his emotions.
l: lt’s quite common also in that era.
BB: Also we were evacuated. My brother John being eight, he was evacuated to my dad’s mother,
his grandmother. And then when mum decided to take me and she left Leytonstone, she left and she
stayed with her mother in Widnes. So during this time as things were happening to dad we weren’t
around either, he was on his own in Leytonstone.
l: Would you like to speak more about those war years?
BB; I remember we had an Anderson shelter in the front room.
l: Would you like to describe what that was like?
BB: lt was a metal frame in the front room. lt took up about a third of the front room, and when the
sirens went off we slept in it. I remember it pervaded all the front room really. Another thing about
coming out * we sometimes went to Leytonstone tube station and there were shelving where
people slept on, like a wooden shelving. I remember taking bedding, coming out in the morning, cold
morning, after the night of spending it in the shelter of Leytonstone tube.
l: And you were there with your mother and brother?
BB: Yeah. That’s right. I’m not quite clear… I know mum wasn’t very happy in Lancashire. I think she
came back earlier than she should have done. John certainly said he stayed with his grandmother for
most of his early schooling.
l: So when were you reunited with him?
BB: I don’t honestly know. He was eight at the disaster. He was obviously here then. lt was a toing
and froing. lt was very difficult as well because even when we were in Lancashire, he was with one
grandmother and we were in another house. And to say, grandma Sharrock was very strict. The way
she was battling these forceful women in the care of her children. She wasn’t very happy. So I think
she came back as soon as she could.
l: And why didn’t she want to be there?
BB: Well, she was away from dad. She wasn’t in her own environment, she was basically going back
to her mother.
l: How old would she have been at that time?
BB: Dad was 38 when the disaster happened… she was a similar age. She was – she found it difficult
making friends here in London when she came down here. She used to say it wasn’t like Lancashire,
everybody knew everybody. She had great difficulty making friends. She was with policemen’s wives,
they formed a group. That helped her.
l: Digressing a little bit, l’m thinking of the photograph you showed us of your parents, their infant
school photograph. So did they know each other throughout their lives, or did they meet up again
many years later?
BB: No, dad left Bethnal Green. I think they got engaged, he was twenty-one. He left Bethnal Green
to get work. He went back to her and they got married, I don’t quite know how old, maybe twentythree.
He got back and they got married, and that evening, they came to London. They had a brief
honeymoon, but he brought her back to London, so everything was quite strange from the close-knit
community in Widnes to Bethnal Green, and then the war as well. So I think at times she was quite
emotionally depressed and upset and fearful obviously. I know on one occasion dad was in bed,
during the day it was another bomb fell on the hospital, near where we used to live in Leytonstone.
He woke up and the ceiling was on top of him. On the bed. London was very dangerous place really,
and cycling into Bethnal Green each day to go to work.
l: Do you have other memories of what London was like at that time? Even if you can’t remember
things you’ve heard from your mother about those war years?
BB: No, I can’t think of anything else. I remember V Day. We had invitation to two parties and I had
mumps or measles or something, so I missed out on the parties. But there was a great community
feeling of when the war was over. Sort of another part of my memory, but I can’t really remember….
l: You were very young!
BB: Yeah.
l: Do you remember being afraid at all? When you were in an Anderson shelter?
BB: The only thing I remember was, this separation must have affected me. This coming and going
and not knowing dad. That’s another memory of meeting him. I don’t know how long we’d been
apart, but he came up the garden path in his police uniform once, and I screamed. I didn’t know this
man. Perhaps six or something.
l: And then what was your relationship like after that?
BB: I was very close to dad. Yeah.
l: What was he like as a person, how would you describe him?
BB: Very reserved person. Kept his emotions very much to himself. Not really cut out to be a normal
policeman. He studied very hard to get on, and he didn’t get… he got to station sergeant at Bethnal
Green. But he left as soon as he could. He left the police in his forties. Took up other careers.
l; Oh. When you said he wasn’t cut out for it, what was it that you think he might have needed in
that role that just wasn’t his natural make-up?
BB: I don’t know how much aggression he had or authority he felt. He went into the police force
actually, he was with weights and measures. He followed his father’s footsteps and went into
weights and measures and did various exams. He used to study a lot.
l: What is that actually, weights and measures?
BB: Well, it was scales and balancing them. He used to go round repairing scales and making sure the
balances were right. One of these reasons for joining the police was they had two inspectors, the
weights and measures were under the police. Mum said that’s why he wanted to join the police to
follow his career in weights and measures. That didn’t happen because they split off from the police,
I don’t know when. This is what I’ve been told, I don’t know the ins and outs of all this.
I: Did he talk much about his career, the things he was doing day to day as a policeman?
BB: No, no. Little bits, He came home one day and said about chasing a man, he was on his bike and
the man was running and he nipped over an iron railing, my dad couldn’t follow, Little bits like that.
But that was the way he was anyway. He tended to keep things to himself.
l: And then in his forties he left the police force altogether.
BB: Yes, he went back to his weights and measures, I suppose it was engineering of some
description. He got jobs in schools, as an assistant to the technical people who used to set up
experiments in the classroom. Classroom assistant type of thing. He went back to that. He seemed
happier with that. I suppose that’s what reinforced my thoughts about him not being having the
police as his chosen career as you like, fitting in. He used to say they were, he studied, I remember
he had huge great books whlch he used to study, the Acts. He’d go in for an interview. He said they
had to stand to attention during the interviews, they didn’t sit down. He never progressed as he
wanted to. Yeah. So he’d done all this hard work. He was very much one for pushing yourself and
going to night school, That was part of his nature.
l: And did he instil that in you, do you think?
BB: Oh yes, when I left school, I left at sixteen and I went to night school.
l:What did you do at night school?
BB: I used to learn typing at that time.
l: I just want to come back to, you said that your mother told you a bit about the Bethnal Green tube
disaster. What your father had seen. ls there any more that you could say about what she told you?
BB: No. I can’t – I think I learned as children do over little snippets of information that they learn. I
just don’t think they talked about it. [Clip: significance of project/memorialj She would be absolutely
amazed to know that this is happening. She’d be really chuffed, especially having his name on the
memorial as well. The other ironic thing is she became a crossing patrol. The local police visited dad
to ask if he knew of anybody who would do the crossing patrol, which was actually outside our back
gate in Leytonstone. They sat and talked about, who could they suggest. And then mum said, what
about me? She did the crossing patrol about twenty-one years. And got the – was it the MBE? Yeahl
She got the MBE, long-service medal. That’s really odd. Dad had died by the time she actually got the
MBE, but they both got their medals,
l: What did he get a medal for?
BB: He got it for defence medal, and exemplary service, two medals. I’ve got them now. And my
brother’s got mum’s MBE. Yeah.
l: And how do you think you and your brother were affected? Could be in different ways for each of
you. lt’s not only the Bethnal Green disaster, it’s something much broader, the war…
BB: That’s right. l’ve often… I did actually have counselling for a while and she used to say that she
thought that my mother during my early years was depressed from the way I described her. That
shocked me, but lthinkthat’s right. Shedidn’tfeel supported with the neighbours. ln factthe
neighbour next door, she was quite harsh and mum used to be in the house on her own during the
bombing. I can’t remember my dad getting in the shelter and things like that. I presume he was
working. I certainly think that affected me.
l: She must have been very frightened herself, without support.
BB: Exactly. This separation business, I don’t think we formed as a whole family til the war ended. All
the comings and goings. I know one daywe were in Lancashire, my mum was in Lancashire, lthink I
was with her. ln Widnes there was a large chemical works here, they said it was a dangerous place.
So everybody left Widnes, Mum left for Blackpool for the day and then went back to Widnes. lt was
this uncertainty. I think that’s my main memories. lt must have affected me. My brother, I don’t
know how much it affected him. He seemed to be quite settled with my grandma. Probably he
related to her. l, being younger, seemed to be wherever mum went. We split.
l: ln the aftermath of the war, do you remember how the climate changed? You were still very little.
BB: There was still..” I always felt we were missing a lot of relatives. All of relatives in Lancashire,
every summer we used to spend our summer holidays in Lancashire, and we’d meet all these
relatives we really didn’t know. Cousins I played with but didn’t really know. And at Christmas, times
like that. lt always felt like I didn’t have the relatives around me that other children had. lt was a
great relief at the end of the war. I experienced that in a way, the parties and things.
l: When you would go to visit your cousins, did you enjoy that? Did you feel comfortable with them?
BB: Not always. Certain cousins you related to better, as you would anyway” But it was once every
year. We never really had a long-term relationship with them. My grandmas, I did, some of the older
relatives I felt more close to.
l: You mentioned these two strong womdn, your grandmothers. What were they like?
BB: Grandma Sharrock, she lived til she was about 90, in a home. She was very matria… she was very
powerful, She had four children my dad being the eldest. And the other one was more of a soft
grandma, a pliable grandma if you like. She would give in to us.
l: She was your mother’s mother.
BB; Yeah.
l: And your mother, from the little you’ve said l’ve sort of picked up she had a similar nature do you
say? Or is that not accurate?
BB: Yes, as a family it’s very strange when you think about what happened. She related to my
brother more, and I related to dad. ln a way we had this split still, a bit. Even as we grew older.
l: Your mother related to your brother more. You were closer to your father.
BB: Yes, quite split. Still, in a way.
l: So you didn’t feel particularly close to her, even though you were with her?
BB: I did at the end. When I was married, I was divorced. She rallied round and was extremely close
and helpful to me. She wasn’t emotionally. She couldn’t see the emotional part of it much. She did
practical things for me, looking after the children, she’d mow the lawn when I was working and
things. So yeah. I did get closer to her. And when she was ill, she came here, with John and l, she
came here when she was ill. She didn’t go to my brother, she stayed with us.
l; And you took care of her?
BB: Well, not long, But when she was ill, she would come.
l: Would you like to then talk about how you got married, the kind of work you did, the children you
had? You haven’t talked about that at all.
BB; Well, I married at twenty-one.
l: Where was that?
BB: We were in Leytonstone. Alec was my husband. He worked at the college in Loughton. We had
two children, Pam in 1964 and Paul in 65. When they were five and seven, we split up, which was
quite traumatic as you’d imagine. He went to live with one of the people in the college. I met John
and we began living together ten years later after that. So my children experienced this split as well.
l: ln these intervening ten years were you alone with your children?
BB: Yeah.
l: What was that like for you, bringing them up?
BB: Very difficult. l’d met John early, and we parted. lt’s quite tangled. I was just going to explain that
I went into social work. So both of us ended up in social work, retired when I was sixty. That’s a life
story. {laughs)
l: ls there anything more you would like to speak about, the Bethnal Green Tube disaster or its
impact or the war? Before Caroline will come and ask you particularly about the Memorial Trust?
Memories of your father?
BB: I suppose the only thing I think of, I’ve got the leaflet for the Trust as well. The children now, our
grandchildren, they’ve got no idea, no perception of what it was like.
l: Do you speak to them?
BB: l’m going to meet my brother and some of his children. l’ve got some of the leaflets to give to
them. They must know in the back of their mind about it, but life today has moved on, which is good.
Things that happened during the war… very history.
l: What do you feel is important for them to know? What would you like them to know about how it
was?
BB: Well, I suppose, you see it now in the films. How these young men, cause dad was young as well,
how their lives were affected, many of them died as well… How their lives were so affected by the
waf .
l: You explained a little bit about how you became involved with the Stairway to Heaven Trust. Do
you have anything to add to that?
BB: [Clip: SHMT involvement] We haven’t involved ourselves in much of the fundraising, but we
attend the service, we’ve tried to attend the service every year. As you know we came across the
people collecting, first of all my son at the tube station at Bethnal Green and then we later met up
with him at Paddington. So it’s mainly through them that we’ve got involved. I get the newsletter
every so often. But we haven’t been helping otherwise.
l: [Clip: significance of projectlmemorial] How did you feel when you found out that this was
happening?
BB: I was overjoyed. Especially at the beginning, I just thought we were – we saw pictures of it and
heard bits about it. Then when Sandra said that it might be that we have a plaque for the emergency
services, that delighted people. Then when she actually said that they would put my dad’s name on
the plaque, Richard Sharrock. So yeah, I was overjoyed.
l: How do you feel about the memorial itself? What do you think about the design?
BB: I don’t know about the stairway to be honest. (laughs) What they’ve got at the moment, I’m
pleased with. lt’s better than I thought from the pictures. Hopefully the stairs will fit in as well, but I
can’t envisage it, it seems top-heavy, I don’t know. Just unusual. But I’ve learned they’re gonna have
lights in there beaming down, so perhaps the perception is not the reality of what it will be.
l: [Clip: significance of project/memorial] Why do you think it’s important to have a memorial in the
area for the local community?
BB: Well, I mean, if it raises the idea that what war was like… the people coming, it was a very busy
spot. The situation of the memorial is so close to the disaster. Yeah. lt’s important that when you go
to the service and they read out all the names of the women and children. The fathers came home
from work to find just whole families had died, it’s terrible.
l: Do you know any information about how many of the emergency services were involved that night
and how long it took?
BB: [Clip: significance of project/memorial] On the plaque that dad’s got it talks about home guard
and thinkthere was a fireman and doctors. And then there’s another plaque that’s the actual
experience of a doctor isn’t there^ lt’s only through the plaque that I really know. I suppose I’m
amazed that no relatives of the other policemen have come forward. lt’s a shame because I’d like to
meet them. There must have been huge amount of police involved as well.
l: Do you have anything else to add about the memorial? Stairway to Heaven work?
BB: No…
l: [Clip: significance of projectlmemorial] Can you say a little bit about how you think it’s important
for younger generations…
BB: lt was only through your leaflet I realised that they were doing an outreach, for schools and kits
for schools and things like that. We did go to our local Waitrose and put an application in to see if
they wanted to collect some money. They do collect some money. They said they might. Near
Armistice Day.
l: You were saying earlier about your impression of the architect. What you said about him and what
he’s achieved in doing the memorial?
BB; [Clip: SHMT founding] The way he came across? My understanding is that when we met him at
the open day… he lives locally in Bethnal Green and he used to wonder what the plaque was. He
made inquiries and it was actually him who set everything off. Following his inquiries they held a
meeting. This was all before I knew anything about it. They held a meeting in the local hall, and
Sandra was saying that 300 people turned up. That was just from one input to gather people
together. I suppose not living in Bethnal Green… there’s more adverts, they collect money around
there. We haven’t been involved so much or seen so much.
l: Do you think that the nature of Bethnal Green being what it is today is very different from what it
was during the war?
BB: Actually yes, that’s the bit I didn’t say. Dad used to take me to the police station in Bethnal
Green. On one occasion he put me on a horse. One of the big police horses there. I mean, that was
just a one-off memory, I don’t know how often he took me there. But I knew that was where he
worked. The station there.
l: Do you think that’s important to have it in the area, even though it’s a very different type of area
today?
BB: Yeah, it’s amazing isn’t it that 300 people came forward. Connected with the disaster, in one
meeting. That was the beginning, now it’s grown.
l: Thank you,

Eric Linden
Fifteen-year-old Eric was out looking for his air-raid warden father who had
not returned home from the cinema as expected. At Bethnal Green station
Eric realised something dreadful had happened. Knowing many people had
died, he wrote a story which he phoned through to the Daily Mail. He had no idea his father was one of those who met their death on the steps of the
underground.

hdernorial Fncject
klemorial Project
Bethnal€reen Memorial Project: Oral History Summary
Catalogue Number: lnterviewee/s:
Eric Linden
lnterviewer/s:
Amy Murphy, Philip Sunshine
Date of lnterview:
1″0 December 2013
Location:
Brentwood
Length of interview:
72 minutes
Any other info;
Time:
0:00
8:00
11:30
1,4:45
22:15
26:00
29:00
30:00
39:00
Summary:
lntroductions. Eric was born in Finsbury Park, but moved to Bethnal Green as a young
child. He recalls his childhood there, particularly navigating the local gang culture,
including the ‘blackshirts’ led by Mosley.
Eric speaks about the beginning of the war, when he and his siblings were evacuated
and spent several years in the countryside in Somerset.
Eric moves back to London when he was fifteen years old.
On the night of the tube disaster, Eric’s father, who was an air raid warden, went to the
cinema near Bethnal Green station. When he failed to return home, Eric searched for
him at the cinema and came across the Bethnal Green disaster on his way home, not
knowing his father was actually inside the crush.
Eric wrote up an account of the events and sent it to his employer, the Daily Mail, in an
attempt to get it published. The paper followed up on the incident, but was unable to
publish the account due to a government injunction.
A heavily edited version of the story was covered by London media, and Eric’s account
wasn’t confirmed until the 1960s.
Shortly after, Eric joined the Air Force. His memories of this time are unhappy.
After that, he became a sports reporter, specialising in speedway and ice hockey
reporting. He speaks about a boxing bout he remembers covering, and about his
passion for speedway, He became assistant editor, then editor, of a monthly speedway
magazine.
When speedway lost the public’s interest and Eric was no longer able to support his
family that way, he found a job with a different paper called TV Times, reporting on
current programmes on lTV. He speaks at length about climbing the career ladder with
the fV Times, and establishing a new system for information gathering among the
49:20 | various independent companies that contributed to lTV.
59:00 | Back to the Bethnal Green tube disaster: Eric speaks about how the causes and the true
course of events were whitewashed. As he pieced together afterwards, there had been
attempts to make the station safer, but without success.
63:00 | Eric speaks about the memorial that is being built, and regrets that it is too late for
most survivors to see it.
70:00 | He discusses the rumours blaming the Jews for causing the disaster.
Closing words
Memorlal Prnject
Bethnal Green Memorial Praject lnterview Transcript
lnterviewee {EL): Eric Linden
lnterviewer (12):
Date: 10 December 2013
Location; Brentwood
l: Just for the recording, this is the 10 December 2013, we’re in Brentwood, Essex, and this is Amy
Murphy and Philip Sunshine interviewing Eric Linden for the Bethnal Green Memorial Project. Eric,
thanks very much for agreeing to talk to somebody, I really appreciate it. I’d like to just start I
suppose by getting a sense of your upbringing in the East End. When were you born?
EL:1926.
l: 1926. And were you born in the East End?
EL: No, I was born in Finsbury Park. We moved to the East End when I was four or five.
l: And what are your memories of that time, the 30s in the East End?
EL: When you say memories… I got memories of Green Street as it used to be, with all the stores
down each side of the road and the buse$ never able to get through, Mostly I’m afraid a lot of the
memories were of trying to stay out of the reach of the Mosley thugs. lt was quite a happy place.
What can I tellyou about my childhood memories?
l: You mentioned the Mosley thugs as you call it. Do you think that’s a very strong part of that life in
the East End at that time?
EL: Yes, it was at that time. But particularly where we were because my parents had two gown shops
in Roman Road, what’s now Roman Road, then Green Street, and Mosley’s headquarters or the
headquarters of the Bethnal Green branch of the blackshirts was probably L50 yards away. So we
were forever in the public eye, so to speak.
l: And then I suppose with 1″939, the approach of war, you’d have been then still a young boy.
EL: ln 39, I was twelve.
l: What schools did you go to?
EL: Coopers. lt was the Coopers Company School. lt was equivalent to a public school in as much as
the headmaster was a member of the headmasters’ conference or something, which gave the school
that added kudos. A very very good school, it was all male. lt was… lt was about 15 minute walk for
me, it was not far away, near enough to get home for dinner.
l: That was the important part then.
EL: Well, lunch it now is, dinner as it was then.
l: You mentioned the gown shops. Did you ever help out in the shops yourself?
EL: No.
l: So what were your kind of interests when you were a boy?
EL: Member of the local gang including all the local blackshirts, who accepted me into the gang, but
if it came to a social occasion I was in trouble.
l; Really?
EL; Oh yes. There was a distinct difference between being in the gang so to speak, and then being no
longer gang time therefore you’re no longer a friend.
l: Wow, so really a case of… I guess like,.. what would you call it?
EL: We used to call it ducking out of the way.
l: This idea that it’s alright one minute, but the next minute it’s just blanked on the street.
EL: They were thoroughly influenced by their parents as to their connections outside of boyhood
friendship.
l: What impact did this have when the war broke out?
EL: Um, don’t know if it had any impact. They tried to carry on but of course most of the Mosley
hierarchy were probably shoved into… not concentration camps… into jail, which no leaders tended
to break up the… the feeling was still there. lt was fifty per cent anti-Semitic.
l: That must have been a really tense atmosphere. I’m trying to imagine it…
EL: lt got pretty tense. lt tended to get a bit physical at times and became particularly tense on those
days when the communists decided they were gonna march, and of course they had to march
through Green Street. They were always little incidents going on.
I ; Physical confrontation…
EL: Physical and what’s the word… can’t think of the word. lncidents where somebody would tend to
throw a milk bottle through the glass windows, lots of those, god knows how many times. Or some
of the communists would stage a night raid and go down and pour petrol over the door of the fascist
headquarters and set light to it. Those things were going on all the time. I must say the majority of
them passed you by. You just knew it was happening, you knew that any minute something could
happen to you.
l: Sounds like very much a case of people living their normal lives, but always with this awareness
and one eye on what could be.
EL: Yeah. Let me say, it was not an unhappy place.
l: What was the spirit of the time, if you could sum up that feeling, that mood?
EL: Spirit of the time was just, bugger everybody, we’re alright. {both laugh) You just got on with it.
l: A kind of can do or make do. When war broke out you were about twelve, thirteen I guess. Did you
stay in London for the duration of the war?
EL: Ma decided that none of us, that’s myself, my brother and my sister, were not gonna stay in
London. We knew only too well what had happened in the European countries, and what to expect.
They shuffled us all out, we all got evacuated.
l: Where did you go?
EL: Started off at a lovely village called Aldbourne, mostly because we were supposed to go
somewhere else, but the train didn’t go there.
{5hort interlude, changing batteries for Eric’s hearing aids)
l: I’m back recording again after a short hearing aids intermission.
EL: Aldbourne, spelled A-l-d-b-o-u*r-n-e. We were billeted on… I suppose it was a farm except that
he was ill, he just had a few animals but he was sick at the time and his daughter was running the
place. lt was on the village green. His house cottage was on one corner, facing it was the fire station
and there were two other buildings, one on each corner, and that basically was the village.
lnteresting thing was he had two animals, a very friendly big Alsatian and a pet sheep. Pet lamb it
wasn wasn’t a sheep. We only stayed there about three weeks, when we were told we were now
going to be moved to our permanent place at Taunton in Somerset. And off we went to Taunton,
and we finished up at Frome. Why we didn’t go to Taunton nobody ever found out, they just billeted
us at Frome and that was it. I must say the people there were very good to take us in.
l: The three of you were together, you and your brother and sister?
EL: My mum and brother were together, at the last minute my mother decided to keep my sister
who was quite tiny at home with her.
l: How much space is there between you, your sister and your brother?
EL: About five years between each of us. So that was it, that was there. Frome. Til I’d finished my
exams, that was when I was about 15, came back to London and got various jobs.
l: lt must have been quite a change of pace moving from the East End of London out to Frome.
EL; lt was, it was. But it’s amazing how quickly you got used to it. Never missed the East End even
when we were away.
l: What was the feeling of coming back to the East End? Were you looking forward to coming back to
London?
EL: A littte bit weary because although by then most of the raids had stopped, we knew there was
still gonna be knocking around. But once you got back, you never worried about it. I got a job first at
the British Drug Houses because I was guite good at chemistry but decided I really wanted to be a
reporter.
l: Why was that? Just something you’d always been interested in?
EL: Later I found out that my mother’s father had apparently been a journalist back in Russia before
the pogroms and they couldn’t get out, so maybe it was just in the blood, I don’t know. One day I
decided that’s what l’d like to do, I’d like to write. Got a job at the Daily Mail, not as a reporter but
just in what they called the tape room. You were a go-for, you took the tapes from the machine to
whichever one of the reporters. And that was how it was until this thing came along.
l: What age were you then? You came back to London 1942?
EL: Fifteen, sixteen. 4!,421 think.
l: After the Blitz then?
EL: Oh, the Blitz was over, At that stage we were in the end of the buzz bomb era. I was in uniform
when the buzz bombs came over so maybe itwasn’t… Anyway lcame back, got into the Mail, my
father was an air raid warden. I’m never quite sure exactly what his job was in except that he was in
there, except that he was in it.
l; Had your father fought in the First World War?
EL: No. I don’t think he was old enough. He certainly wasn’t in it. And that was life, you just went
along. The night of this thing, my father had gone out to the cinema, not in Green Street but the
crossroads and across there was an old cinema there called Smarts, which was anything but smart.
He went there because..” I don’t think it was the film, but because it was within a few yards of where
his mother and father had a shop, which meant they could go to the cinema, come out of the
cinema, pop in and see ’em, come home. Which would be his norm. On this occasion he went to the
cinema and didn’t come home. After a while, I started to get a bit worried. Particularly when the
warning had gone off, Maybe he’s gone to my grandmother. Maybe he’s gone somewhere else. But
if the warning’s gone he’s probably gone back to the post, wherever the post was.
So I walked down to… almost out to the tube station, which was about quarter, half a mile away.
From there it would have been another quarter mile to the cinema. I was gonna go in and see if he’d
stayed in the cinema which was unlike him, people tended to come out, a few did stay, they kept the
show running for the few that stayed. Most people on a warning would come out and head for the
shelters. He wasn’t in the cinema. I had a good look around.
I didn’t want to worry my grandmother. I was fairly sure if a warning has gone he’s gone back. I came
back, and when I got back I could see something was going on. I started poking around and nosing
around and found out what was going on. Had no idea my father was down there, didn’t think he
would be down there. Later tried to work out how he’d gotten down there. I assume what had
happened – he came out of the cinema and the buses had a habit, if there was a raid on they would
stop and pick people up all the way along the line. He must have gotten the bus back to the tube,
intended to go to his post, got caught up seeing something was going on, either went to help or just
got caught up in it. Obviously remains a mystery what happened,
I can remember very much being told to go away rather rudely. And I thought if they want me to go
awaythere’s gotta be a reason, so lstayed. Fortunatelythe guythat lspoke to… lsaid I was looking
for my father. He said if he’s down there, forget it. That’s when I realised something was going on
and then pieced it all out. Went and found out what had happened, no idea how many were there
except there was a lot. lf they could pull them out from the top of the stairs, but the station was at
that point terribly badly designed. They had a flight of stairs going down and then there was a brick
wall. You had to turn and go down to the level where the booking office was. Of course, what had
happened was somebody down past the first part had slipped. We don’t know if she slipped or if she
dropped a baby or whether she had her bag snatched. There were strong rumours that there was a
bag snatching BanE, and names were given as well as to who it was, run by a fairly prominent
sportsman. That’s all l’m gonna say, lwon’t name him even now. That was never proved. lt was one
of the rumours. But what wasn’t a rumour was what set it off, was that people were going down the
tube. There was one light I think, and I think it was a 25W lamp. To serve the whole of this stair…
down and down and down. lt was wet because it had been raining. I think it had stopped at that
stage. But the stairs were wet and therefore greasy. There was no centre – what do you call it…
l: A hand rail?
EL: A long pole all the way down the middle. Nothing like that. Opening was… if you look at that
fireplace, it wasn’t much wider than that from what I remember.
l: That would be what is that 5ft even?
EL: I don’t know, that was it. You’ve got people not walking down one at a time which would be no
problem, but jamming into it. Most times you get away with it. Might tear your clothes or something
but you’d get away with it. Not this time. Anyway, I wrote up the story, I rang it into the Daily Mail,
and they couldn’t print it, government stopped them. They put a ban on it. The Mail did send down a
reporter and a photographer, so they got some shots. But nothing that decried what the
government was saying, which was that it was the result of an air raid. At one stage they said it was
a result of bombs being dropped. There were no bombs dropped. There was no aircraft, there were
no searchlights, nothing, This is after the warning had gone. I didn’t go out, I looked out the
windows, nothing going on. Yet they insisted that this was the reason. They would not tolerate
anyone suggesting it was a panic. Because the reasoning was fair enough, that if people were known
to have panicked because of bombs, they weren’t gonna use tubes anymore, and there’d been
enough trouble to be allowed to use the tubes in the first place. This was the one reason that they
wouldn’t use the tubes anymore for fear of being hit by a bomb etc. So they killed the story and they
insisted there had been an air raid and they insisted that a bomb had been dropped.
l: When you say they, who insisted?
EL: The government, Ministry of Propaganda. God knows who, somebody put a veto straight down,
and kept it down. What we actually heard, which was one of the reasons why I started running up
there, was this terrible noise. I wasn’t used to shellfire, but all the people in the East End, they knew
what shellfire was. What the anti-aircraft guns sound like. They knew what the bombs sounded like.
And no way would they believe that this thing that had gone up, it was a noise that, you can’t
describe it. lt was extremely loud, it was like a whoosh. A venomous whoosh. And it had gone up.
We had never heard this. l’d never heard it certainly. None of the peopfe that had lived through the
Blitz had heard anything like this, which is what induced the panic. And panic it certainly was. No
way would they release any parts of the story. lt made front pages of course, but a heavily milked
version made front pages.
l: That’s something I wanted to ask you about, I guess what I want to do is also give Philip a chance
to ask you some questions, cause I know Philip has some questions, so I’m going to pause the tape
for a second.
(brief pause)
12: Your memories of what was being reported at the time?
EL: I can’t remember what they wrote. All I do know is they’d sent down a reporter, a photographer
and their star writer, Prince White I think his name was, something Prince White. To write up the
story. And as far as I can see all he can have written is a cover story. This is Bethnal Green, a lot of
people were killed, there was an air raid and all the rest of it. My story as I said never saw the light of
day, although I was given a credit, on page three there was a little box: This boy brought the news.
And I thought marvellous, except they spelled my name wrong. I work for this lot and they can’t
even spell my name. That was the acknowledgement that I had scooped the story, and it was a
scoop because as far as I know none of the other reporters were there at the same time as the Daily
Mail people were. Although obviously they all followed it, and they just as much followed the line
laid down. I think it took until the early 60s, 1″960, when they finally admitted that there had been no
raid etc, and that basically my story was right.
12: Was that in print though?
EL: No, this was the government then answering questions and they answered them like that, where
they came clean they had done a cover-up.
12: And the original piece was a front page?
EL: The original one? Yes, a front-page story. I thought it was good considering I was only in the tape
room.
l2: Did that help you in any way later on in your career?
EL: No way. Not at all. I wasn’t there that much longer before I went in the Air Force.
12: Tell us about your time in the Air Force.
EL: I didn’t like it, there were too many people trying to kill you.
l2; You always hear that when you’re there you meet friends that you form a close relationship…
EL: You don’t form too many friends. Mostly because they ain’t gonna be there for breakfast. That’s
not a time that I liked. lt has nothing to do with Bethnal Green anyway.
12: And after you left the Air Force?
EL: Great ambitions, I still wanted to write, I formed a publishing company which had a couple of
successes but more losses. Eventually closed down. And I just got on to magazines after that, mostly
on sports stuff. I was doing quite a lot of freelance work for the Daily Mirror on sporting things.
Mostly speedway and ice hockey. Bit of football. Every so often they decided I was a boxing expert
and sent me to cover that. Which was hell, cause I vvasn’t a boxing expert any more than my big
mate Harry Carpenter was a boxing expert until he started at the BBC. They sent me to lovely places
lil<e the York Hall in Bethnal Green. Hoxton bars. Rampant with bookies and betters who were irate
at every decision the referees made. Who would then descend on me with little words like, what do
you think, you’re press ain’t you? I didn’t know a left hook from a kick in the arse.
12: So where were you positioned? ln the front row where the ring was? Did you get good seats?
EL: Yeah, right in the front. That was very rare, it was only if one of their regulars had kind of
vanished at the last minute.
12: Can you remember an interesting bout that you saw?
EL: I can remember one bout now. Turpin. Randolph Turpin in his early days, he was fighting some
poor old bugger, Tug somebody, who must have been about… getting onto 50. He built this guy
terrible. After I went around to the dressing room, don’t ask me why but I did. And he came out
smart, bow tie and everything. This other fellow came siaggering out and he looked such a mess.
Whoever had put him in there, God knows why. Must have been part of the build up of Randolph
Turpin to where he got up tot he top. That’s the only boxing one I remember.
l2: What was your favourite sport to cover?
EL: Mostly speedway and I liked ice hockey.
l2: What were the venues then for speedway?
EL: All over the place, London had five tracks,.. no, six tracks. That was every night of the week.
Wimbledon, West Ham , New Cross, Wembley, Haringey, Walthamstow. Walthamstow didn’t last
very long. That was just the London stretch, and then they had more around the country. Bradford,
Bellview, Manchester, Glasgow. Can’t remember them all now. Swindon, Plymouth. Speedway was
quite big in those days after the war. Very big. What else can I tell you?
l2: Carry on, what happened after your reporting?
EL: I got a job on a magazine which was a speedway monthly. Got that very cheekily cause I’d been
working for a local printer who was running a weekly paper, one of those papers that was eight
pages full of photos, lots of articles, cost next to nothing, paid next to nothing as well. The guy who
was the actual editor of it, he was the brother of a fellow called Colin V., and Colin V. was the boy of
Fleet Street. His brother Bruce that I was with was a take-it-easy merchant. Totally opposite to each
other, but he had loads of good ideas. Wembley was one of the great tracks. And they had got the
transfer of a star American, Wilbur Lamoreaux, name I’ll never forget. Wilbur Lamoreaux was
promptly bought up as a columnist by another, a big speedway newspaper. Star columnist exclusive.
And Bruce told me, get an interview with him and write it first person. And I was a bit dumb, I
thought hang on a minute, he’s been bought by this other lot, they got him exclusive. How can I
write for Wilbur Lamoreaux. Just write it by Wilbur Lamoreaux in an interview. I said alright, and I
did all that.
And I promptly got a call from the owner of the paper who had bought Mr Lamoreaux, it wasn’t an
invite, it was an instruction to get out there and see him. So I went out and saw him. He gave me
hell, of what I thought I was doing, stealing his man, this was exclusive. I could take you to court,
God knows. He says but on the other hand it was pretty smart.., cause he attributed it to me, not to
the guy. That was pretty smart. Would you like a job? And that’s how I became the assistant editor
of the Speedway Monthly. The editor then got himself in disgrace with a libel case. And was given
the option of leaving or going to court. The option being from the people he had libelled. He not
surprisingly decided he’d leave. That left a hole at the top. They said you’re the assistant editor. I’d
only been the assistant editor for a couple of weeks. You’re now the editor. Went there for a while.
The accountant for the firm then decided he was going to set up his own paper, and would I like to
go as editor with him? That was great until about 1955 I think it was, when speedway had suffered a
depression. Speedway interest goes in cycles, and the cycle had reached the bottom.
My job with the paper that I was working for was that they’re gonna cut the money in half, which
left me with nine pound a week and a wife and two children and a house to support. I knew I
couldn’t make it on nine pound a week, and for the only time in my life I went out and bought the
trade newspaper. The World Press News at it then was, I don’t know what they call it now. And the
front page story was that lTV, which had got the license for commercial television, were going to
produce a paper, TV Times. And they appointed one Lester Wilson, deputy editor of the Sunday
Dispatch, to become the editor. And I knew that just trying to get a job there would be hopeless,
cause if it was a Sunday Dispatch paper they were going to fill it with Sunday Dispatch people. I
thought, I have to do something else. I went home that night and I worked right the way through the
night and I do not joke, and I produced thirty different ideas of various things to do with television,
particularly to do with independent television. Ran them round to the office of the fV Times,left
them with the secretary there who was the only one,.. left them for the editor. I thought, well, l’ll
never hear any more of that. Decided the best thing was to go home and to go to sleep. Went to
sleep.
When I woke up my wife told me, you had a phone call from a woman. I haven’t had anything.. I
can’t think of any… who was it? She said, her name was Valerie something. She was the editor’s
secretary. I said, God, I know who it was. lt was the woman l’d given the letters to. What was the
message? She said, well Mr Wilson wanted to see you. Why didn’t you wake me? That’s the end of it,
he sent round for me and I haven’t turned up. Next morning while having breakfast the phone went.
And it was Valerie, she said you might have not got the message, she repeated it. I went up there
and they gave me a job. And now thanks to the earlier training, I could do pretty well any job on the
paper. Had nothing to do with the printing or the type setting but I could do all the others. Whereas
all the others they had taken on from the Sunday Dispatch were specialists, so they could only do
that one job. So they gave me a job as editorial assistant. That meant I was everybody’s go-for after
a week, the huge office about four times, five times the size of this.
Down one end of it, there were glass panes, the editor’s office behind it so he could just stand up
and see what was going on. He had obviously been standing up and looked at what was going on.
Called me in after a week and said, you alright? Yeah. You seem to be on call all over the place! I
said, yeah. Tiring? Yeah. Well, what would you like to be? I said I’d like to write, He said right. lt went
from there, I got up to editorial executive… can’t remember the title. But it was in fact basically in
charge of all the subs and artists, and that was about a hundred, then photographers and feature
writers.
And then I had to set up a system gathering information from the companies. You’d think that as fy
Iirnes was a company belonging to all the independent television companies, they would feed it with
information. No” They were too aware that the BBC also had information gatherers, so they weren’t
going to give anything away about what their programmes were. Have the BBC coming up against
them. So we weren’t getting any information. Time without number we went to press on a guess on
what they were gonna do. And thanks to a spy system you’d set up, you were usually fairly accurate.
Forever chasing bits of information which should have been sent in. I had a reckoning with the
editor, He said, you can do it better? Set up a system. I set up the system and going to each of the
heads of the various companies of lTV, laying down to them, this is how we want it. With a system
built in for warnings when they’re late or haven’t arrived and warnings for changes of programmes
etc. lt got to be quite a thing. Now there were thirteen television companies, no way was it possible
to go to each one every week. So I decided I would do the top four, the deputies do the remaining
ones, and it worked.
12: What were the top four?
EL: Thames, ATV, ABC as it then was, and Granada. Later Granada split into Granada and Yorkshire.
So that became a top five then. But our life then was trying to control the goings-on inside TV Times
with the subs and all the rest of them. And trying once week to visit each of the companies. Once a
week became impossible. So we went to once a month in the end, but they were all really good. lt
was a contact at managerial level, it was the managing directors each case. And sometimes the
programme controllers. So I was getting good stuff. lt not only had to be what was going on, the
week by week stuff eventually took care of itself. But I needed to know what they had planned for
the future so that we could start lining up feature. And if they dropped things in which they
obviously did every so often, we had features ready. I enjoyed that, enjoyed writing more. But the
writing went out the window I’m afraid.
l2: Sort of pioneering.
EL: lt was pioneering in those days. lt’s kind of welded it into a shape. That was it.
12: That’s a sort of legacy that you’ve left that’s been carried on.
EL: lt was a legacy at the time, I don’t know if it still is. Never caught up with any of my… only one of
my Air Force guys, the rest of them l’m afraid never made it through. Never saw much of them.
Never really wanted to, to be honest.
12: Come back to the aftermath of the disaster, did you know of any other victims?
EL: No. I heard of other victims, there was one name that kept coming up, Alf Morris, who I believe
was one of the first people pulled out. I think he’s still around. But no, never saw…
12: And with the inquiry, was your family involved or asked to be involved in the inquiry?
EL: lf they were I never heard of it. When was the inquiry?
l: There was… the inquiry was immediately after, the following weeks and months, which was
conducted by the Mr Herbert Morrison.
EL; Oh, him. {both laugh} Who I had worked out was probably the main cause of the bloody
blackout. No. Was it immediately afterwards?
l: lt was in the following weeks and months, l’m terrible with dates.
EL: lf it was in the following weeks and months it wasn’t an inquiry, it was a whitewash.
l; Could you say a bit more about that?
EL: I didn’t know anything about it.
l: You definitely think that Morrison is the man at the top of it?
EL: I think he was probably… whether he made the initial decision I don’t know. Somebody made the
decision to whitewash completely the unit in Victoria Park, which was quite close, which set off the
rockets. Somebody told them to, they didn’t do it off their own bat. That name I don’t think was ever
revealed, who gave the order to fire the rockets. And when. Would have been immediate. As soon as
they said go, they went. But somebody gave an order. lt might not have been an official order. And
we knew, or we found out afterwards, that they had been testing these rockets or were due to test
them, and we figured this is what it was. They had tested them. Why they did it, why nobody told
somebody in their local authorities: watch out for this, give a surreptitious warning or something…
cause the people known there was a new – something new was gonna happen, they may not have
panicked as they did. But this was an unknown…
l: Do you believe that air raid siren itself was part of that testing? Or do you think that there was
supposed to be a raid that night?
EL: I came to the conclusion it was part of the test. That’s only my conclusion. There may well have
been some kind of alert. But planes around, nothing. lf there’d been planes around there would have
been at least one searchlight poking around in the sky but I don’t remember seeing anything.
l2: Was it a clear night?
EL: lt had been raining and it couldn’t have been clear. lt must have been dark. When you say clear…
I thlnk it had stopped raining.
12: You could see stars?
EL: I don’t remember looking up and seeing stars. lt hadn’t stopped raining all that long if it had
stopped. lt may have still been spitting, I can’t remember. All I know is the ground was wet.
l; Other people have said that too.
EL: Well, this is one thing that undoubtedly helped the accident, Someone’s gonna have a foot slide.
l: And there had been requests mentioned for safety features…
EL: I gathered after from what I’d heard that there had been criticisms, both of the stairway and of
the light.
12: When did you find out officially that your father was one of the victims of the disaster?
EL: lt was probably a couple of days later. And I think the first people to find out were the ARP
people cause it was one of their own, They passed it I assume my mother, who promptly got in
touch with a couple of uncles or something and they went down and identified the body. They
wouldn’t let me go down. Saying, remember him as he was. Certainly within a day or two.
l; And at that point I think it took several days for people to find out… were you by that point aware
he was involved but it hadn’t been made official to you? Or were you still not sure where he might
be? By the time you found out his body was there, had you already known, or were you still… maybe
he was somewhere else?
EL: We were trying to work out where on earth he could have been.
l: So all that time you were covering the story, you had no idea.
EL: No, when I was covering the story I had no idea cause that was just an hour or two. As far as I
was concerned he was probably at home. I was caught up with the story at that point.
l: And what do you remember about the response on the scene? Do you remember policemen,
ambulance?
EL: Don’t remember ambulances, do remember some people picking up bodies and putting them on
buses to drive them away. Policemen I can’t remember. lt was just… I remember some soldiers were
around. Everybody was just trying to help the best way they could. I don’t even remember if a crowd
had gathered or not to be honest. I imagine there must have been people.
l:The public were helping out as well?
EL; I think they were. As much as they could. You can’t get many people through an opening like
10
that, even to go and help.
l: And so at that point the rescue effort was severely hampered by the…? [‘m just wondering, people
have talked about the difficulty of trying to remove people.
EL: The difficulty was you couldn’t get in.
l: ln or out…
EL. No! There were a few people who managed to get in, and they were pulling people out. There
was no question of getting people out from the bottom. There were people in the station who were
pulling them from the bottom as well. Which I imagine was happening, but from the top Vou
couldn’t get in. Maybe one or two people who got in, who just pulled on legs or arms or anything.
Not a nice night.
l: What do you think of the… we’ve talked briefly about the memorial, I know you haven’t seen much
of it yourself. But what do you think of the idea of having a big memorial at the station?
EL: Having a memorial is great. Why it’s taken this long, I don’t know. Other than there were a few
few, adherents.,. who kept at it, who deserve a great deal of praise for the work they did. And I must
admit that when I was told there was going to be a memorial, I thought, why now? Memorial is just,
I don’t know, it’s just names on a piece of stone but it’s not right cause it’s far more than that to the
people concerned.
l: ls there any way to remember those people that you think would better, would be more
a ppropriate?
EL: Unfortunately these people are dead and gone. Most of their survivors are dead and gone as well
I imagine,
l: Were your family ever compensated?
EL: I did hear of one woman who had actually sued them. I can’t think of who she sued now. Anne
something, and won a thousand pounds or something, but I can’t think of what she sued them for
and what they paid her for.
l; Thousand pounds would have been a lot of money in those days.
EL: I don’t know when it was. Certainly there was one successful suing, apart from that I don’t know.
There probably have been others as well.
l: This was part of the inquiry or whitewash as you call it, there was this inquiry to find out, should
people be compensated as this being war casualties?
EL: Yes well, they should have done. Negligence of the conditions of the station and the conditions of
the firing of the rockets. The more I think about it… Stupid they’ve got this weapon they’re gonna
use anyway and for some unknown reason they think the Germans don’t know about it. But what’s
more, neither are the people who it’s gonna effect gonna be told about it. You need a warning.
l: There was just one more thing lwanted to askyou about, we’ve read some documents, Ithink
Philip has seen some of them…
ishort break)
1,r
12: We’re coming towards the end. Did you ever hear any stories about, it was the Jewish people that
were panicking?
EL: Yeah, that was the local blackshirts who said it was the Jews. lt was one of the many stories that
came out like I told you about the bag snatching myth. I never actually, I don’t remember how the
Jews were at fault, but I do remember the stories spread around. And there was another lot as well
that got blasted, I can’t remember who they were.
l2: Another group that panicked.
EL: There was another group,.. this was all kind of rumour and not based on any knowledge that I
could understand.
l2: Just to blame…
EL: People came up with theories. The blackshirt theory was obvious, the rest… everybody had an
idea of what had happened I suppose.
12: You’ve talked about your father in the role of the air raid. Would you like to talk about your
father, what you remember of him? What type of person he was and how good he was as a father to
you?
EL: Very quiet person. Complete opposite of belligerent. Very respectful of his parents. Which I must
say most of us weren’t. lt took a long way before you got round to realising just exactly what they
did. He was a very quiet man. Very hard working. He had been… when he met my mother he was a
tailor as far as I know. Then decided to try their luck at retail shopping, which was the ladies’
costumes and frocks. They were frocks in those days, weren’t they. We used to call them that. They
owned one shop in a pickle shop. When I was a kid, when we lived in Finsbury Park, they took me
down to see this shop that they were gonna buy. And I can only remember going into this shop and
seeing rows and rows of pickle jars. I take it it must have been some kind of a grocer or fish shop…
l2: Delicatessen?
EL: I don’t think they were delicatessen. Nothing was dainty, not in Roman Road. On Green Street.
But whatever it was, I was asked by visiting relatives what kind of shop it is, and I said” a pickle shop.
But whatever it was, they turned it into a gown shop. Then had a brilliant idea, they’d open a second
one about a hundred yards down the road. I always remember saylng, what’s the point of that, why
are you giving yourself opposition? And the answer was quite simple, this shop will be the higher
priced stuff, that shop will be the lower priced stuff. Somebody doesn’t like the higher priced stuff,
walk down the road. They sell them off cheap down there. And vice versa at the other place, They
had two shops there. Eventually got a car. With a chauffeur. I think he was just somebody on the
dole. Very nice guy. He was the guy that introduced me to speedway as it happened. Very good guy.
12: What was his name?
EL; Jim. Jim Baker. Never forget him. He was a most happy go lucky very friendly man. Always giving
us things or showing us things because my parents worked very long hours and didn’t have a lot of
time with us. He was such a lovely man. Then he had a tragedy, his daughter was killed. He became a
very nasty man. Very bitter man. But they had the two shops and eventually they decided they
would have a third shop. Of all places they went to Croydon. The other end of the world in London.
They were running three shops, we didn’t see a lot of them. We had a nurse. I can’t think of what
else went on. Otherwise we had a normal enough, happy enough childhood.
T2
l2: ls there anything you’d like to say to round off this interview?
EL; About what? What can you say to round off?
l2: What would you like to see happen eventually like to see happen about the disaster that hasn’t
already happened?
EL: I don’t think there’s anything now that hasn’t happened. Because the truth came out in the end.
That was done. ,And if anybody was to be compensated, it should have happened by now. And if it
hasn’t, I don’t think they’re probably still around. I don’t honestly know anything. I’m trying to think
of what stage they’ve got to with the memorial. I gathered it wasn’t finished yet.
l2: No, they’ve started, it’s in progress.
l: About half…
EL: Well if there was anything that can be done about that, it should be… since it was the
government’s fault in the first place, it should be them to put it right. They should make that
memorial happen. I had a feeling it was well on the way.
12: Well, thank you very much, it’s been a very enjoyable interview, of interest to all of us.
EL: Well, I hope it’s of some use to you.
l: Thanks very much, I really appreciate it very much. Thanks for your very clear recollections,
T-
13

Henrietta Keeper
Henrietta was opposite the underground station with her parents and her
sister’s friend Dolly on the evening of the disaster. Dolly urgently tried to
persuade Henrietta to go into the underground shelter with her so they could join her mother but Henrietta was too scared to leave her own mum. Henrietta found out two days later that Dolly had died on the underground steps.

Merncrial Frcj*ct
Mennorial Froject
Bethnal Green Memorial Project: Oral History 5ummary
Catalogue Number: lnterviewee/s:
Henrietta Agombar
lnterviewer/s:
Amy Murphy and Jo Till
Date of lnterview;
9 December 2013
Location:
Stepney Green
Length of interview:
90 minutes
Any other info:
Henrietta’s daughter is present during the interview
Time Stamp:
0:00
4:00
6:15
8:30
13:00
16:3O
20:00
21:30
Summary:
lntroduction. Henrietta explains how to pronounce her name and speaks about her
family history that she traces back to the French Huguenots, She grew up opposite the
old police station in Bethnal Green, near what used to be Camden Street.
When she was twelve and her sister was ten, they were evacuated to the countryside
near Bury St Edmunds, where she remained for three years. She returned home around
the time of the doodlebug and remembers many people being killed.
Henrietta speaks about the Anderson Shelter her family used. She describes how her
mother used to heat bathing water for her and her four siblings, and how she used to
wash the family’s laundry by hand.
Henrietta describes her father having a premonition. Eventually her family took shelter
near the railway arches at Bethnal Green Station rather than their Anderson shelter.
On the night of the disaster, she remembers hearing a very loud noise that scared her,
and then many people rushing towards the tube station. Henrietta did not want to go
down into the tube station and remained with her mother outside. One of her friends
followed her family down the stairs, and Henrietta later learned she had died.
She recalls rescue workers showing up at the station and beginning to bring out dead
bodies on stretchers, from small children to strong young men, laying them out on the
pavement” Many bodies were badly injured, with their intestines visible. She became
sick with shock.
Henrietta remembers learning of her friend’s death. After the disaster, she remembers
the police asking members of the public to link hands form a shielding ring around the
site of the accident.
She recalls first getting in touch with Alf Morris, and some details about how he was
I rescued from the crush. She has since gotten involved in fundraising efforts forthe
I Memorial Fund.
25:00 | Henrietta remembers some more detalls about the initial fundraising efforts for the
I memorial, and about the Borough of Tower Hamlets promising to match the Trust’s
I contributions.
I
I 26:15 | Her friend’s mother survived as she had already been underground in her bunk. Her
I friend, Dolly, was identified only by the ring she was wearing, which she had been given
I by her mother for her birthday.
I
I 27:3O I Henrietta states that the crush was caused by a mother with a pram falling at the
I bottom of the stairs. She also remembers the boxer Dick Corbett dying.
I
I 30:00 | She speaks once more about her father’s premonition that prevented her family from
I seeking shelter in their Anderson shelter, and how their neighbour’s house was
I completely destroyed by a bomb and the neighbour’s woman died in the bombing.
I
I 33:00 | Henrietta emphasizes that the bodies she saw coming out of the crush did not look as if
I they were asleep, but were badly injured. She remembers a large number of police
I officers on the scene.
i 34:45 | Henrietta used to work at a tailor’s shop, making Army clothes among other things. Her
I
co-workers used to write saucy poems and hide them in the clothing for the soldiers to
I find.
I
I 35:30 | She speaks about meeting her husband. He used to work with his brother, who was one
of the main coal merchants in the area. He passed by her house frequently, and one
day, he brought her a bag of oranges. She liked him immediately, though he was
initially involved with another girl. He then left the neighbourhood for two years for his
military service and tracked her down on his return, and eventually proposed to her.
443A Henrietta explains how she got the nickname ‘Minxy’ as a child.
46:00 | She remembers the food her family used to eat when she was a child, as well as some
stories about how they managed to get food on the table during hard times.
50:00 Henrietta shares more anecdotes about her family.
54:00 | Back to her friend Dolly who died in the disaster: Previously, she had also been
I
evacuated along with Henrietta and her younger sister.
I
55:00 | She recalls several jobs she had as a young woman, and how she learned a lot of craft
I skills including making hats and painting on glass and in oil.
I
I 62:00 | Henrietta has to take medication to help with the shock of seeing her husband die. She
speaks about health issues in general.
66:00 Henrietta sings l//r’ll you still love me tomorrow.
70:00 | She sings another song, this time a Cockney one, and speaks about how she has loved
insins since she was
79:00 | Henrietta remembers several families who lost many family members in the disaster.
80:00 | She speaks about some friends she has had throughout her life.
86:00 | Henrietta returns to the subject of her husband. When he returned from military
service, he brought her an Army cook book with recipes serving up to 700 men.
tvl*m*riml Frsjeet
Bethnal Sreen Memerial Project lnterview Transcript
lnterviewee (HA): Henrietta Agombar
lnterviewers (l): Amy Murphy, Jo Till
Henrietta’s daughte r (X)
Date: 9 December 2013
Location: Stepney Green
l: So this is the 9th of December 2013 and we are in Stepney Green. lt’s Amy Murphy and Joe Till
interviewing Henrietta Agombar. ls that how you say it, is it A-gom-bar?
HA: No, no, it’s A-gom-bar. You pronounce the A longer. That’s French. I’m from the French
Huguenots. She’s done the family tree since the 14th Century.
l: You’re joking.
HA: I’m the third Henrietta there is. ln the 14th Century an Henrietta, my mum was Henrietta, cause
I was the oldest she called me Henrietta. And I’m the third. I’m the third Henrietta.
l: How did you trace all the way back like that? Did you do a lot of research?
X: I was already doing it and someone else in our family made a book of it and they printed it all on
the internet, we asked could we copy it, he said yes and we printed it all off. lt went back to Jacques
Agombar in Picardy, France.
HA: I found a cousin I didn’t even know I had.
l: Here in London?
HA: Yeah. She’s got a firm. We went and met her. We looked for her and we couldn’t see her. All of a
sudden she comes… she dyed her hair red. She was really nice looking, you know. We said, here she
comes, I bet that’s her. lt was really nice.
l: lt’s nice to be able to do that isn’t it. To go back. And then meet people you never even knew
existed, lt’s an unusual name. I’ve never heard it before, I don’t think, that name.
X: When it was in France, it had an h on the beginning and a t on the end. When they come to
England cause they got persecuted, they fled to England. The first one was Pierre Hagombart, but he
changed it to Agombar, and he got married in St Dunstan’s. A lot of people do change their name
when they get persecuted don’t they? Dropped the h, dropped the t. So now it’s Agombar.
l:Ah! lt’s not a name I know. You said you were 87, Henrietta?
HA: No, not yet. 5th ofJanuary.
l: Sorry, I’m putting years on you. (laughs) 6th of January. 5o you’re 1927. Were you born in the East
End?
HA: I’m a cockney and l’m proud of it. Sorry. I don’t mean to be too much.
l: No, no! Which part of East London did you grow up in?
HA: You know Bethnal Green Road, You know the old police station? Opposite there was a pub
called the Sun. And that used to be called Camden Street, didn’t it? Later, it was called Ellsworth
Street. But when I was there, I lived down the bottom, I lived in Shetland Street. You couldn’t get out
of there. Well you could, but it was a school at one end, my school, and it had a great big gate, all
ornate and really nice and they had a big letter box. My mum used to make bread pudding, put it
through the door when we was all playing, in playtime, and the used to ring round me for a bit of
bread pudding. (laughs) Every Thursdayl
X: Mum, you’re sulpposed to be talking about the tube disaster.
l: That’s alright, we’ll get there.
HA: Anyway. I was 1″2 years old, and my sister was 2 years younger. The war was declared and all us
school children had to go evacuate. Sorry, if I forget names she can tell me, she can prompt me. You
better listen out thenl I remember having a little… you put a gas mask on. You had them in a box.
You all had your little box from your arm. You had your name there on a bit of cardboard, with a pin.
We all went by coach, and we was all took away, I went to a little village called Little Saxham. And
there was Great Saxham. But I was with a country family, Mrs Bullers and two sons, Charlie and Eric.
And that was 4 miles from Bury St Edmunds. 5o I was there for three years. Me mum used to come
down and see me. After three years I come home to the doodlebug. The doodlebug, is a bombs that
drop but you got no men in the plane. Not like you see men doing something like that and his little
aeroplanes go and he’s controllin in. Well that was controlled, but no men in it, but they did drop the
bombs. Terrible bombs. On the East End of London. And they caught so many people, especially
down the Roman. Yeah. So then we had Anderson shelters in the garden. lt was a dug-out, but so
many feet deep, it had a galvanised roof, galvanised walls. And we had a great big… it was oldfashioned.
My mum had a tin bath on a nail underneath the shed. A galvanised and she used to get
that end, boil all the kettles and wash all the kids. Us five.
l: Five! Big family.
HA: Yeah. Three sisters and one brother. Under the shed was a little copper. What I call a copper is a
granite… made of stone. lt had a cut-out like, you put your sheets in it with water. Little fire
underneath so it hots the water, She had a great big truncheon like a copper stick, like the coppers
had. No good people! (laughslShe used to go like that and pull it up and soapy water, and that’s how
you washed your sheets years ago. Didn’t have no washing machines in them days. Anyway. She
used to get it out, she used to get the old tin bath, fill it up with water and rinse it. And then she
used to hang it on the… they did work hard.
X: The tube disaster…
HA: Oh yeah, sorry.
l: Honestly, we’re interested in everything around it as well, Carry on.
HA: l’m getting up to thatl So when I come home, my dad, when the warning went, you could hear
them up above, going mmmmmh mmmmmmmh. And when it stopped, that’s the lull. You heard the
bombs dropping. 5o my dad had a premonition. And I’m coming tot he tube in a minute. Me dad had
a premonition. We had a great big long yard, and he had one sunflower in his garden, and we had a
toilet in the corner. He said, mind me flowerl He thought a lot of that, that’s all he had, he didn’t
have no more flowers. The cats went on it… we had spiders in our toilets. Kill the spiders! I had to
tell you that because it is definitely true, anyway. My dad had a premonition. He didn’t feel safe in
that little shelter. And the garden was long and it was right up near the Fowles’ house. And there
was a big wall. ln a minute. And over the wall was a row of houses, and my dad was right. He had
that premonition. So he went to the authorities. Today it’s the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, it
used to be the LCC, London County Council. That’s what it used to be called, but they changed it to
that.
He went there and he said, could I go somewhere else? And they said yeah you can go up… You
know Bethnal Green, the arch, where the Salmon and Ball pub is. They now sell office furniture
inside. lnside there, they let my dad have a bunk. They used to have bunk beds. We went up there
from then on. We used to go up there roundabout 5 o’clock. That’s when sometimes the warning
went and we was already in the bunk beds. When you asleep for the night. WE used to go up there 5
o’clock early. And all of a sudden, it wasn’t really my mate, she used to go to school with me, my
sister Marie used to go to go with this Dolly Warrington. Her name was Doris. And there was me
mum, and it was early evening. They used to sell baked potatoes and they used to have a furnace,
and a great big metal thing and it had all holes in it and you could have a warm bite, it was really
lovely. And buy baked potatoes. Anyway, I remember that as a little girl, and I was fifteen when I
come home there. My dad got us there, so we went there on this particular night, we went up there
at 5 o’clock… are you having me on the…? Oh, sorry.
There was me mum, me and me… I don’t know where my sister Marie was, but I think she’d gone
round her friend’s somewhere. There was… anyway. And Dolly Warrington, Marie’s mate, so she
said, oh people… my dad worked on the Bethnal Green tube, building it. And they stopped building
it cause of the War. They said they was goin to re-do it and go back to it when the War ended, which
they did, but at that moment he lost that job. So I know that bit. Alf they had so far was down the
tube where the accident was, was a great big cut-out where the trains and the line was going to be
put down. But they put boards over it with… what can I say? Bedding, to go asleep, for the night
time. They used to run down there. Her mum was down there. She used to go down there. And we
used to go in there, away from the bombs. Oh come with me, my mum’s gonna be worried about
me. So I said no, you go with your mum and l’ll keep with mine. And no warning had gone yet, there
wasn’t a warning. I do know that bit for sure. And so she said oh come on, and she’s gonna be
worried about me. I said, You go down there, go on. And all of a sudden there was a great big gam,
no one knew where it come from, Honestly it was really loud and it frightened everyone. So all of a
sudden I saw people frightened, I was frightened. That’s why I didn’t want to go with her after, I said
no. That’s why I wanted to keep with my mum. Holdin my mum’s arm. Really frightening. So all of a
sudden I saw people all running really over the tube, from Roman Road, Cambridge Heath Road, and
the rest up to Whitechapef. And I was standing there with my dad and I saw that. And ail of a sudden
let me think…
X: Dolly called you!
HA: Yeah she said, oh come… but let me go fast forward a minute, we found out from the East
London Advertiser a long while after that it was the RAF that was in Victoria Park that was trying out
a new ACAC gun, and it frightened and that’s what caused it. And you know what? All of a sudden I
looked up Bethnal Green Road, it was full of buses, all stopped. The whole lot. One minute, one
minute, I’m gonna come to that! The buses was all up there, they got everyone to do a ring right
over were that side, right round our side underneath the arch against the Salmon and Ball pub, and
all hold hands. No one couldn’t go by and that’s what the police done. And all of a sudden she said to
me, she was getting so frightened. I said I love my mum, I don’t want to leave her cause it frightened
me as well. I was scared cause it was so loud. Anyway she said oh come on so and then she got hold
of me skirt and said come one, pulled me skirt, I was getting fed up with it so I said all right, I got up,
lsaid come on then, ltooktwo steps and lheard thatACACgun going and everybody’s… no lsaid I
can’t go. I got hold of me mum’s arm again I said no. You go over there. I said look. She wanted to go
there, cause she was so frightened, she wanted to be with her mum. She was worried her mum was
worried about her. So she went. And two days later we found out she died in there. And I could have
gone with her and I didn’t. l’m so grateful. Leslie said she wouldn’t have been here if. I mean. I cry
sometimes,
l: I can’t even imagine what it must be like for you Henrietta.
X: What happened after… you see the bodies coming out…
HA: I can’t hear you! Oh yeah. So after that. All of a sudden, have you ever heard of RAP men, They
are not the police but they had big yellow lorries going rrrrrrrrrum, a noise. And they had tin hats
and they were more like police. And anyone who’s bombed and got buried alive, they were rescuers.
They used to get ’em out and save their lives. They all come out and all of a sudden we stand in there
and I went forward without telling me mum and dad, to the corner. We was under the arch. And
then the pub this side, and Cambridge Heath side, right, So I went there and I saw all the RAP rnen
coming out with all stretchers. And on ’em was dead people. Little boys. Great big sailor. I know a
family who lived on the back of Old Bethnal Green Road in my mum’s buildings. Me mum used to
live there. And that man, that young sailor, great big tall fit, he was home on leave, he died. He
couldn’t even save hisself. And they was bringin’ them all up. And all of a sudden, they laid them all
outside, the corner that’s jottin out at the arch. That entrance there, this side, round the corner,
opposite all the shops, one minute, that entrance wasn’t built yet. All it was is paper bloke, used to
sell papers. The RAP men was all carrying the stretcher and puttin’them all down Cambridge Heath
Road side of the pub. Loads of them. And then this side all here a little bit up to the arch. And I don’t
like to say it but it made me feel sick. lt was terrible to see, but every one of them had all their
insides out, and they all come like that. Like a pinky, whitey, sticky substance. What? I can’t hear.
X: Out of their mouth! Through their mouth!
HA: I can’t hear youl
X: Out of their mouth!
HA: Yes, out of their mouth. Sorry. Yeah.
X: This can’t see what you’re doing.
HA; And mydad come up to me. He lookin cause lgone forward cause I’m a little bit like Miss
Marple, l’m a bit inquisitive, I’m like that now. Sorry. {laughs) My dad come and got hold of me and
said, no that’s not for your eyes. Come away from it. And we forget all about goin’ there, but I don’t
know if it was a day after or the next day, we found out she died. And it was terrible. And I’m so
luckythat ldidn’tgowith her. Something made me stop, something made me say no. lwish I’d have
said to her, keep with us. But she didn’t want to stay with us. She said, no my mum’s going to be
worried about me. So she had to go. So that was it.
X: And everyone held hands round the bodies.
HA: Yeah, ltold ’em that! I was with’em and all, with me mum and dad.
l: So the police asked you, the public, to all hold hands around…?
HA: There was a great big ring of people holding hands. And another lady I knew, she was alive but
she was alive but she had a thumb like that permanently. And there was Alf Morris years and years
later. He was in it at that time but Leslie saw in the East London Advertiser, he said anyone who saw
the accident and who even saw the aftermath, which I did, said please phone this number. We
phoned it, I went and met him at the church, and he spoke about… and he’s so dedicated. When he
used to speak to us up there all about it, he used to cry. And you know what? He was the little boy,
and we saw it on the telly in Time Out, I was in Time Out on the telly and told my little bit. So he,
what was it? He was just goin under and they told me that they stopped building the… they didn’t
have no rails to hold on to. No rails nothing. And so he was trying.., he was just gonna go under, she
just saw his little ears, some lady who’d come up the stairs, nothing to do with the accident, she saw
him going under cause he was right near the front. Down the bottom. So she got hold of him and she
got hold of his hair, only his hair, she couldn’t get hold of nothing else cause he was goin’ under, She
pulled him out and saved him. And that’s Alf Morris, he’s now 70 something ain’t he? She phoned
him up to say I saw the aftermath. He’s so dedicated. And since then he’s lost his wife.
X: We done a collection.
HA; While we was there at the church, he gave us some paper, a lot, you know, and it said, you put
on every one how much people give to the donation. And their name. So he gave it to us, and me
and Leslie went in two pubs, it was up Whitechapel. What was it?
X: The Globe in Globe Road.
HA: Was it three pubs or two? How much did we raise?
X: You said it was about 400.
HA: Four hundred. Then I got all the money together, put it all in a little bag and went up the
Childhood Museum cause in there, they never used to, but you can hire tables and chairs. Not like
anyone who sells chairs. They have meetings. lt could be anything, you can hire them. They hired
that. And they was all there, Alf Morris was there. And I told him me story and I said thank you and
give the money. So I did contribute to it. We did contribute to it.
l: And what do you think about the memorial at Bethnal Green? Have you seen it?
HA: Yes, I have.
l: And what do you think of it?
X: lt’s unfinished.
l: About half way finished, yeah.
HA: They’ve had a lot to do because when they asked the London Borough Tower Hamlets to give
some money towards it they said, well if you raise so and so, we’ll put the same. And they had to
raise… what was it?
X: I don’t know how much it was, but it was half. They had to raise half.
HA: I thought it was 60.000 or something like that. An awful lot of money. You mean it’s not
finished? So they not got enough money yet?
l: Not yet, no, they’re still raising.
X: Doris Warrington, your friend, her name is on it already.
HA: I know, l’ve read it. I read it the other day, I was there.
l: Did her mum, was she in that disaster as well? Her mum, you said she was looking for her mum.
HA: No her mum was right down below. On the bunk beds. And they went there, they used to have
their food down there and tea and it was over where the trains would go. They had boards. And all
bed clothes. But the mother must have found out. And I didn’t know til two days later. Me and my
family didn’t know. We were so shocked. lt was terrible.
X: Didn’t they identify her by her ring?
HA: Oh yeah. They identified Doris, Dolly Warrington, by a ring what her mother bought her for her
birthday. So that’s the only way she could know. So when I go down that tube, I go all cold, I really
do.
l: Did you ever use it as a shelter after that? Did you ever go down again? During the war, as a
shelter? lnto the station?
HA: No, I didn’t, no. Terrible. And you know, That’s all I can tell you, I saw the aftermath and it was
the RAF that tried out that gun. What first started it was a lady, she had a little baby in a pram. A
little baby in a pram, and she was the first one. Down the stairs. She fell over, someone fell over on
top of her, and they all fell on top of each other. And they couldn’t save their selves. lf that big sailor
couldn’t, you know, save hisself, what could they do? And there was a boxer, I forget his name.
l: Dicky Corbett.
HA: Yeah, he died. And another lady from old Bethnal Green Road white buildings where my mum
lived. Although I lived in Shetland Street when I was little, you know. When me mum used to put the
bread pudding through the door. (laughs) What did I just say about…?
X: There was Derek’s sister or mum?
l: His sister and… was it Andy’s mum as well? Derek lost a couple of people in his family.
HA: There was a lady my mum knew who lived at the back of our house going towards old Bethnal
Green Road, where the church was. Her thumb was like that forever, cause she couldn’t move it
cause it was broke. I don’t know whether she had it done at the hospital, But she was lucky.
X: Mum, where you down the shelter on a separate occasion, there was an accident near your old
Anderson shelter.
HA: She has to remind me cause l’m getting old you see! (laughs) ls that all on there? Sorry. Ooh. I
better be careful. Anyway. He was right about that premonition. See it was a great big long yard,
And there was the fouls house, it had boards all round it so you could sit in it if you know what I
mean. And inside. Why I’m tellin you that I tell you later. And… one minute. Over the big wall we had
an ivy and there was the toilet, mustn’t forget the toilet. Go over. And you got the houses beyond
that. That house behind that wall got a direct hit. A bomb dropped on it. Man had his leg off and his
wife was dead under the floor boards. So that’s the premonition. And it was right next to it. I don’t
know why it just missed us, it could’ve gone on us. I’m saying, we didn’t get the bomb on us, but it
was dead right just over that wall, that was their house. lt was demolished.
l: And were you in your Anderson shelter at that time?
HA: No we’d all got out.
l: You went to the arches after he’d had that premonition?
HA: No. We didn’t see none of it. But my brother told me recently he went round there at the time
and he saw the man, lthinkthe man was stillalive but he had his leg right off. And his wife died and
she was buried under the floor boards. So that premonition was true. And the LCC, London County
Council, you know, they let him go up there. There was a lot of other people in there as well from
around. But it was all them RAF that caused it. That’s what they all said at the time, you know. Not
what I say. lt’s not what I say. lt’s what I heard other people say, and what they all thought. And it
was terrible.
l: After it happened, do you remember: was it in the news? Was it reported that this disaster had
happened?
HA: Yeah, I think it was, you know. But it was a terrible thing to happen. All them people lost their
lives. They was all frightened by that and they all run there. Why did they all run there and all fell
down? Have I satisfied your thing?
l: Yeah, ljust wanted to ask you a couple more things. Forgive me if it’s difficult to talk about, I
understand that. You mentioned that when they started to bring the stretchers up with people on
them, r&e’ve had some people say that the people all looked like they were just asleep because you
couldn’t see any marks on them. Your story is very different.
HA: I asked my mum what it was, and she said their inside was all come out. They was crushed. I
definitely saw that on every one/ men, dear little six year old little boy, and someone else, a little girl,
a mum. Who’s on that list, all that names. I definitely see that. And that’s the God’s truth.
l: And were the public helping to bring the injured and the bodies up? Were there police there?
HA: The police was all around and they all held hands. But them RAP men. I don’t know what ARP
means, I can’t remember. They was like police, but they was very good savers of them that’s buried
or something happens like that. That’s what everywhere had. They got a rotten job didn’t they. They
had a terrible job. And I used to work in the tailor for 30 years. I became a top machinist, and I made
the samples for the governor. And I used to get up the West End, Richard shops. He used to come
back smiling and say, we got work for a few weeks. And if they didn’t like it, the sample that I made,
he said no, we’re not, and we was all out of work. (laughs)
X: Did you make any Army clothes?
HA: Yeah, I used to make Army clothes at Madame Hatty’s. Up big street at the West End. One
minute. We used to make Army denims and the girls used to put notes in it to the soldiers. They
used to write saucy little poems. I didn’t do that because I was too young. I was very young. I wasn’t
old enough.
l: When did you meet your husband? Was that after the war?
HA: No, we had a farrier. You know what a farrier is? Shoes the horses on the anvil. Put the new
shoes. Down our turn in Shetland Street. The school at one end. You go in up the farriers, that side
was the farriers under a big shed. And he used to show the horses. But inside there was a side of the
house that was that street up there. And there was a court way, used to go into Punderson Gardens.
And that was a little grocery shop, the court \ /ay, you go down the next turn and then the house,
What was I gonna tell you?
X: Daddy. How did you meet daddy?
HA: One minute. Oh, we used to go to… what l’m sayin’ that for is… I gotta remember… one minute.
X: Wasn’t he a coal man? A coal man, used to bring the coal round?
HA: My brother-in-law was the biggest coal merchant in the East End. And another man named
Shorty. Cause he had so much money in his jacket, he used to go like this. {alllaugh)His name wasn’t
Shorty but they called him that cause the money weighed him down. lt was him and that was
another coal man, nothing to do with us. But my brother-in-law, Jim, I got a photograph. I got a
book, some lady wrote it who lives in South End about me life story, another one. My husband used
to work… one minute.. with him. Delivering coal. Right? So he used to go by my house in Shetland
Street, I used to be at the door and he’d say, hello curly. Cause I had all curly hair. Cause I straighten
it now, I still got curly hair. I used to break all my mum’s combs. And he used to say hello. He used to
go out and come back with all the new shoes on the horse and go by, he used to come up there
every so often, and one day he brought me a bag of oranges. He said I bought you these. {laughs}
And I did like him, I thought he’s nice. Anyway. Oh. So he was goin’with a girl named Gladys, I knew
about it, but nothing to do with me. I didn’t go with him, he just used to go and buy me things, you
know. One day, he had a mate, what’s that way… his mate Jimmy, his dad had a shop. What’s that
called there? Near the lane? Not Petticoat Lane. The little bit of lane.
X: l’ve forgotten what it’s called. From Vallance Road to Brick Lane.
HA: Vallance Road. Anyway, his mate after two years, we used to go to Arthur’s Cafe. We used to all
congregate in there and eat an evening meal. Some of ’em was at a gang, and this gang used to say,
don’t come in today cause we got someone comin’ and there might be a fight in there. So we didn’t
go. They used to warn us. So when I used to go in there my husband was in there. I didn’t know him
much. He said hello Curly. Kept calling me Curly. Anyway. Now, time’s lapsed, and at that time the
government wanted all the young boys at the age of eighteen or near it to go do two years Army
service. My husband had to go. But he wasn’t me husband then, I didn’t know him much, But he
knew me as when he used to go by me house right. He was away for two years, and guess what.
After two years, I moved from there, and I went down Pritchatts Road in Hackney Road. And it was
in a green grocer’s shop. My mum had the top half and the green grocer was just down below. But
down below was a… wasn’t nothing, it was a granite sink, very stark, no one used it. I tell you that
cause I gonna tell you some in a minute about it. So what was I gonna say?
X: He come home from the Army… and the women he was gonna marry… she went with someone
else.
HA: One day there was a knock on my door after two years, listen to this.
X: She went with someone else,
HA: So Jimmy Sauls, his mate, he said I been working hard all day, and he’s drove me mad, wonder
where she lives. My nickname when I was a little girl was Minxy. Minxy Agombar. And he said, he’s
drove me mad, can you tell me where she lives, lwantto go round and see her. Aftertwo years, I
don’t know whether he give his girl up or not.
X: She married someone else while he was away,
HA: Listen. So he knocked on the door, he said l’m tired, me husband worked with him then cause he
was home from the Army. He was a cook in the Army. He said I’m gonna leave him here alright, so I
had to ask him in. And I went with him ever since. ilaughs) And he used to bring his own coal. His
brother was a coal man and he worked for him after that. I used to look out the window coming
from the top of the road, what’s he carrying? And when I looked in it was the coal! He put it on my
mum’s fire, cause we was all poor, And after that she moved and he used to come round there. And
then one day, this is the God’s truth, we went down there and we put a couple of seats down there.
It was so stark, it was cold and damp, there was nothing down there, it looked like a load of granite.
He went down on one knee and he said to me, will you marry me? I said oh go on, you’re only makin’
out. I said, I don’t believe you. I wouldn’t have it. So when I saw that he meant it, I said alright, ask
me again! {all laugh) And then lgotan engagement ring. And I used to say, cause ldidn’t like to let
him know I was poor, I said, I’m getting at Levine’s, they used to make a lovely wraparound skirt and
a lovely costume jacket. I said I gonna get it home soon, I was always tellin’ lies cause I didn’t want
him to know I was poor. So when he said, when you getting that home, I said, I had to tell him the
truth. I said I never did cause I didn’t want to be shown up. So he went to Levine’s, and paid for one
and let me… and I had it made. And he come with me. So funny. What else?
X: I think that’s it, innit.
l; Why did you get that name, Minxy? Why was that?
HA: When lwas little, little bawl baby, my mum and dad used to have a drink in the Duke of York
that was down Shetland Street. ln there, and they didn’t have no children, and they really took to
me, they loved me as a little baby. So their name was Mr and Mrs Mingo. So my dad named me
Minxy. That’s how I got that name. You know what, my dad, we was all poor, sometimes I
remember, used to have a penny OXO, put it in the water and dip your bappy in it. But my dad had a
lovely voice and he taught me how to sing, and l’ll sing at all the libraries now and at Pellicci’s. They
let me sing up there. Cause I used go and to take her in there when she was four. My dad taught me
how to sing. And I really can, can’t l? What?
X: Tell her, he used to bring the money home…
HA: Oh yeah, me dad… Saturdays and Sundays we had beautiful food. And Thursdays me mum done
bread puddin’, I told you. And she used to have a great big conger eel, clean it all out with salt and
put the water on it to clean it, and then she used to cut it, little pepper corns, that made it taste nice.
We used to have that on a Saturday. And potatoes. They didn’t have no money. Not hardly. What I
used to do, he used to gc to the Duke of York, put his foot in the door, so that it’d be half open, and
he used to sing. And he had such a beautiful voice. And he used to get his cap off, go round and they
all put the money in. He was full-up. I remember me bein’ in my kitchen, and he used to me being in
my kitchen, and he used to take the cap and go… and all the money \A/ent… on the table. And that’s
how my mum could have a lovely roast dinner on a Sunday. And on a Saturday we had the conger
eel and potatoes. And not only did we have a lovely roast dinner, we had a lovely Sunday tea later,
you know. Later in the day. We used to have winkles, Dutch herrings, cake, you name it, we had it.
You know the little winkles? We used to get the little thing. Put it on there, we used to say it looked
like Margaret Lockwood. And my mum was such a comedian. Someone gave my dad a piano. He was
u/orse than that. And when she used to go in any play, she was, it might have been in the afternoon,
she was havin’ a cup of tea with all her mates. Used to say, he couldn’t play. She was glad when he
come off of it.
l: He didn’t make any money off the piano then.
,
HA: She was so funny. she used to go out the pork butchers, you know where lceland is now’ on the
corner there, there was a pork butchers, she used to go in there and make ’em all laugh’ She’d say’ I
want four nice pork chops, she said, and I don’t want donkey chops. He said, we don’t sell donkey
chops. Sort of larking about with her and all. cause they knew what she was’ so she said’ you know’
them ones with the big handles. You know across the pub, there was a row of houses there and row
of houses there, and a court way, But that row of houses there was opposite the school gate’ used
to put the bread pudding… The other side was when it was raining all the kids was out to play in the
playground, they used to go under that shed’ lt was a shed over the other side’ we used to climb up
there, get the string, like not string, cotton, but it’s that thick cotton you know, not ones that break’
And we used to tie it on the knockers of all the houses this side. And we used to go like that and we
used to bunk up there, and someone got on that, you know, and we laid flat on the shed like this’
And we used to go like that and the lady used to come out”‘ I can’t tell you the F-s she said’ You
effin’…
X: Mum. I’m talking about the post office in Roman Road’
HA: yeah yeah, in a minute. So she, I can see ya, ya you dirty ppppfff . I’ll get hold of you, I’ll tell your
mother. And all that. we was all laughing. That was called down knocking down ginger’ shows you
what a laugh my mum was. My dad was clean right. But cause she had five children, she had the tin
bath, great big galvanised bath, under the shed. Even the roof of that had a copper, to do the
washin,. she used to get it in and bath us all in there. But my dad didn’t because he’s a grown-up and
it took so long to do that with the kids. So he used to go to the York Hall Baths’ So as he went out the
door she used to get a, she used to get a knife and fork and put a what’s the name round it, a paper,
a tissue, she said: That’s to get the dirt off, as he walked out. But larkin’about’
X: You ain’t told her about the post office’
HA: yeah. Oh. One day, my mum went to the post office and she took my little brother. I don’t know
how old he was. He’s still alive. He’s about 79 now. Something like that. l’m older than him. So she
took him with her. What my brother told me when he come back, I couldn’t stop laughing’ A man
held up that post office in Roman Road. And there was crowds had gathered. And my mum was
amongst the crowds. she come out and she saw it all happenin. The senior head of scotland Yard,
the senior one, detective, was there. And all his lesser ones’ you now’ So all of a sudden’ he went in
there with a gun, a so-called gun, took the money cause they was frightened and he run out and run
off. So the head detective said, did anyone see what he looked like? So my mum put up her hand,
being a comedian. {laughs) She said, yeah, he had ten rums and a ginger cat’ Ten rums and a ginger
cat. Everybody laughed, they forgot about… l’ll tell you what, she’s so funny, my mum should’ve
been a comedian. Honestly. Ten rums and a ginger cat. Nothing to do with it, is it. lsn’t it the money?
What did his face look like? ls there anything else?
l: Have I forgotten anything Jo? Oh I did want to ask you, your friend, what school did she go to, do
you know?
HA: I can’t remember that. But my sister Marie died in 7997, she had cancer of the”‘
X: 1989.
HA: Are you sure? Oh, sorry. I forget sometimes’
X: Doris Warren, didn’t she evacuate with you?
HA: She did. She stayed with the priest and his wife with the church, who was to do with the
church… She was evacuated all that time, came home and died’
10
l; Did you want to come home after the evacuation? Or did you enjoy being out in the country?
HA: Well, I was a bit frightened. And the reason why a lot of people called me Joan, me mother in
law called meJoan, all the neighbours round where I lived round Cambridge Heath Road called me
Joan. Because I’d lost a little bit of me Cockney accent cause of being a country bumpkin. So I’ve
come home and I went to get me first job. I got one pound seven shillings of the old money. And it
was up Cambridge Heath Road but not quite to Hackney. lt was just past… do you know any pubs
there at all?
l: Only a couple.
HA: There’s a pub called The Hare, and it’s just over where the bridge is. lt’s not even in Hackney, it’s
still in Cambridge Heath Road. A little way up. Just passed Hackney Road, where Hackney Road
starts, with the arch, just past there. And I went in there, and I’d lost a little bit of me Cockney
accent, so I was interviewing me, the guv’ner, to get the job. I got the job anyway. So she come in,
she said, what’s your name love? So I didn’t like sayin’ Henrietta cause it’s so posh. So I said on the
top off me head I said Joan. I got a lot of aliases.
X: They didn’t interview you in the pub, you went to a firm.
HA: What? They did, that was the firm. I said it’s near there. I became top machinist. I started with
linings, just making linings, then I got job after job, and I worked down Princelet Street down Brick
Lane. For Solly Winer, a Jewish man. He used to say to this lewish girl, what was it? Babela, put the
kettle on, we’re all gonna have our tea, you know. I worked there for a very long time and I became
a very good machinist. That’s why I can make things meself, Know them floppy hats. You got a little
flower there and… the little girls hats. I used to make them. I used to go to them charity shops, buy
the biggest fattest woman’s skirt to get… I cut al[ the hats out of it. I washed it first in the
launderette, cause you didn’t know what germs was on it and I made these hats. And my aunt
Lorraine used to take me to the boot sales and I used to sell ’em for six quid. I done all that, and I
done a lot of things. And I’ve done painting on glass. You know, a lovely wine bottle, it goes like that.
I can paint lovely flowers on. lt’s special glass paint. So to prove to you that I can paint, l’m gonna
show you something. One minute.
{short pause while Henrietta goes to find some of her artwork to show}
HA: That’s the first one I done. I copied it but I put all my own things on it. I rubbed it out three
times. I eventually got it. This is thorns and it says look and ye shall find, And I done that without a
ruler or nothing.
l: Oh yes, lovely. They’re great.
HA: I done that all in 1981.
l: That’s the year lwas born… (laughsl Beautiful.
HA: That’s just landscape. You can go for a walk in the woods.
l: ls that somewhere you know, that landscape there? ls it painted from sight?
HA: I saw a picture of a lot of.. I imagined it and I done it… I didn’t do that. My relation done that.
l: l’ll say for the recording so that we know what we’re lookin’ at, we’ve looked at four pictures.
Ll
They’re all oils aren’t they? Four oil paintings by Henrietta. That one reminds me of Norfolk or
something!
X: You’re Scottish. My dad’s family was Scottish. From Aberdeen.
l:Ah, from Aberdeen!
HA: All the others I give to me other grandchildren…
l: Oh, look at that one! A church on a hiil.
HA; I bought loads more paint and I’m gonna start painting again. Cause l’ve been so ill, fractured
shoulder. Tooth knocked out in Nicolas Road. I’ve had eight falls in four years, nine months each I
was housebound. I’ve suffered. And up in a year I’ve had no sleep. I’ve been backto the dentist,
backwards and forwards to the hospitaland they found that I had a splintered bit of jawbone and it
had turned septic. I was thought I had cancer. Really worried, and you know what, I didn’t get no
sleep. That’s why I look a bit batty-eyed. But I’m getting better now. But I had it done. I had an
operation and they took it all out. And cleaned it all up. And I’m getting’ all better now, Plus, there’s
more! I have to take morphine. The shock of losing my husband on the settee. He died in front of
me, on the settee. And it caused me to have an irregular heartbeat. So I have to take morphine. lt
thins your blood. lt makes your blood go through more easily, lt stops the clots. lt saves your life. I
do it really good. Cause I write it all down, I’m very good at it. Some lady at the bingo, she’s just
started and she drops them all on the floor, and she says I don’t like it, I spit them all out. You know.
But I do it to the t, cause I know what I’m doin’. lt keeps you alive. But I don’t suffer. But did you
know I’ve got a balance problem. Something in your ears it’s called… not vertigo. Something’ in your
ears that don’t work properly. lt’s not a disease, but they call it meniers. I’ve looked it up. But it’s
something that’s not working. lt’s not a disease. So I got that, so when I go out me daughters look
after me wonderful. They take me Mondays to get me pension, they take me twice every now and
again when I want me shoppin. And she takes me to Pellicci’s Friday and you know what he does. He
gets a great big ladle up there, and he’s got a little metal jug. He goes, crash bang wollop! All stop
eatin’, Henrietta’s gonna sing! And then llet me little thing out – I’m gonna show you!
l: Oh watch out, don’t trip, it’s not the equipment l’m worried about, it’s youl
{Short conversation about the weather in Aberdeen while Henrietta is out of the room, then
Henrietta returns with a children’s rnicrophone)
X: ls that what you sing with when you sing in Pellicci’s?
l: Henrietta has pulled out a microphone. A yellow and pink microphone. ls that what you sing in?
HA: Yeah, I sing in this! After… I like to sing that one first. She don’t like me singin’ this one l’m gonna
sing to you. lt’s called the Shirelles in America. Your mum would know. Or your grandma would
know. They was really good. They sang a lot of songs, but I like this one the best. One minute. ls it
gonna be on there? I’ve not had my cake yet…
(Henrietta sings ‘Will you still love me tomorrow?’ by the Shirelles, applause)
HA: My dad, I don’t know where he got it from, he used to sing,.. have you ever heard of Hackney
Empire? A pub next door to it, and all it’s got is a door outside. I used to think it was a building. Just
the door you saw. lt’s still there, it’s called The Ship. We all used to go there, me dad and me mum,
Cathy, Marie me sister, we used to sing like the Beverley Sisters or the Andrews Sisters years ago.
Your mum would know the Beverley Sisters. And I’ll tell you what, we used to sing up there, and I
L2
don’t know who gave this to my dad but he had it wrote down and I wrote it in my book, I still have
it in there. What was it? lt must have been a vaudeville number or a music hall number. After them
wonderful comics years ago, he was appearing there. So when they say they’re resting, in the pub
havin’ a drinlg he had my dad sing this. He said l’m a comedian, and you made me laugh, he said to
my dad. Yeah.
X: The Cockney one, here it comes.
HA: Ha ! (laughs) And you don’t have to have a nice voice for this one, you just sing it in a Cockney
voice. lt’s a gall blimey one.
(sings: I had a little bedroom to let, the rent was half a crown, a smart young lodger who took the
room into the name of Brown, he hadn’t been there a week or so we tumbled too his wees and now
we’re runnin’ a show like a lot of performing please. We’re all at home, bobbin’ about like ginger
beer, round we march. We all say v/e, we we we. The salty mish goes like this, like in gay Paris. The
sea was very wet, the boat was very dry. The boat was riggin’, they were all singing and so was l. We
got the women and kids and chucked them in the sea, and everybody aboard the boat would say
pardon me. Now all along the rows, what a lively time, shouting out the chorus in every song we
sang. We laughed, we chuffed, we told some fairy tales. We laughed, we chuffed til two in the
morning all along the rails. Now I tee tiddly dee I tee, tickle me under the nighty. Blighty is the place
for me. Now round and round we march. I know where to find me grub round the Marble ArchJ
HA: I haven’t had me cake yet! The tea’s gone cold !
l: You’ve earned the cake. You sang for your supper.
HA; I know lsts of songs.
X: Sometimes she goes in Pellicci’s, and people like her singing so much, they pay for her dinner.
HA: I sing for me supper, and sometimes he gives me a lovely bread pudding in a silver wrapper.
X: lt’s replicating what dad done, eh.
HA: And I do Perry Como’s one, you know. Don’t look so sad… I know it’s over… it’s lovely. I’m
enjoying my old age, you know.
l: Sounds like it! Jo, was there anything you wanted to ask? I think Jo might have a couple more
questions, if you’re ok…?
HA: I’m sorry if I’ve took up your time. Have I took up too much of your time?
J: No, it’s been brilliant! I know Pellicci’s, the cafe. Have you been goin’there long? Did you go there
when you were younger?
HA: Yeah, when Leslie… how old are you now?
X: She lived on Vallance Road. And I’ve been going since I was about three years old.
HA: No one had any televisions, only my mother in law. She had a console model. A great big thing
down to the ground, you know, with little legs. And we used to go up Bethnal Green Road to the
launderette to take our washing. No one had washing machines in them days. So instead of stayin’ in
the washing machine shop waiting for our washing, we used to go in Pellicci’s. How old were you,
13
about three? A little baby, Lorraine, who lives now down the street, she was a little bawl baby, Linda
was on the seat. She was a little bit older, she was two years older. There was Leslie holdin’ on the
side. And one day I was in there, she went outside, there was a stall sold all little girls’trinkets. You
know like little brooches, little bows for your ear. She was out there an hour, I was watchin her, She
come in with a brooch, you know a boater hat when they go to the regatta rowing, well this little
brooch with a pin at the back, I paid for it, brought her in, put it on. The ones who own Pellicci’s now
is the Anna, his sister and Nev, Neville, and the mother, still alive. The boy that was there and he said
to her…
X: The dad, mum.
HA: The dad, who died, who was the last police. They had the caf on the corner as well. And my
relation used to go clubbing with them, you know, the Pellicci brothers. There was a lot of ’em ! But
they all died out, and his dad was the last one to go. And that was five years ago. He’s got his photo
in there.
X: Every time he see me he used to say, where’s my hat. When I was little.
HA: Yeah, they tried to nick it, she said: No, it’s mine! Anyway. Fast forward it, right. lt was a bit
windy, so we were going along. His dad was alive then, about five years ago. He had just shut, about
four o’clock. So he said, where’s my hat? After so many years. She was only little. We came running
back, we say: How did you know it was us? He said, we could tell you anywhere, you two. I used to
go in there with me mother in law at the same time. I took her and the babies. So one day, fast
forward it now, about two or three years is it I’ve been singing. Not sure. Two and a half years. Nev
said to me, someone told me you could sing. So I said, who told you that? He said, a little dickie bird.
Having a go at me. So he said, do you want to sing now? I didn’t want to tell him twice, did l. So he
said, go on. He got hold of this ladle and on this thing, crash bang wollop, all stop eating, Henrietta’s
gonna sing. And l’ve been singing ever since, every Friday. But sometimes I don’t go because she has
a.,. she goes to funerals and she helps at the funerals, you know, where our bingo club is. A lot of
people hire that hall for someone died. She helps with all the food. She’s a very good adder-upper
behind the bar. I must say she’s very clever at adding up. Me, I have to get a bleetin’ pen and a paper
and say, write it down. Not out me head. But I got other things I can do good.
J: Can I ask you one other thing? You mentioned a few times a shop called Levine’s, I think it was?
HA: lf you wanted to look smart and have a costume, you go to Levine’s. lt used to be down the
Roman, but it ended up the top of, in the city, up that way. Right up Bethnal Green Road and turn
way towards Liverpool Street. Somewhere round the area. That’s where… he couldn’t stop laughing.
Cause I was too poor, Anyway..,
J: Can I ask as well, you mentioned a family called Correls?
HA: They lived in the white buildings in old Bethnal Green Road? What’s that pub that used to be
there?
X: iack’s house.
HA: Yes, but the pub that used to be there, it’s all pulled down now… the pub. I think they all died.
l’m not quite sure.
X: There was one family that lost quite a lot of their family, lt could have been the Correls. I’m not
sure.
L4
l:There’s one I know, Quones as well. They lost I think three generations, I think two people from
each generation they lost. Terrible, a whole family, you know.
J: Have you got friends that still live round here now, that you’ve known since you were little?
X: She has that friend of 93 that was her bus stop mate when she was and she lives in the flats across
the road.
HA: Me bus stop friend. She goes on 94 now. And Anna, who sits next to me, I look after her. She
was L00 on the 15th of this month, and she had a party, we all went round there. I bought her
something, well I’ve gotta still buy it… she likes the moisturiser, what’s it called? I asked down the
Roman, what’s name? Chemist. They said, we ain’t sold that for twenty years. (laughsi What’s it
called? Almay? I still gotta buy it for her, gotta find a way to get it. I think up the West End I’d get it.
Anyway, every week she said, you look after me wonderful. She’s always hungry. So I go in Greggs
round there in the square down the Roman and I get her a great big soft roll, not an old one, cause
she’s got false teeth. lt’s got cheese, tomatoes, ham, you name it, it’s got in it. lt’s beautiful. I got all
the handkerchiefs with it, you know. And I bring it back, she gives me the money for it” This week I
didn’t have to get it because they brought her a great big cake with 100 on it. She said, oh that’s
lovely, I don’t know what I’d do without you. She drops anything, I pick it up. Her pen runs out with
the bingo, I give her a new one. Anything she does, I know what you done when you’re old, she’s just
done finished a sheet with the numbers on I get a bag and I keep it nice and clear, cause the other
one is liable to keep spilling her tea. I have to look after the both of them. Wipe it all down, and I
wash all the cups before we have our tea in it because you don’t know who’s been drinking out of
’em and they’ve not washed ’em up properly. I’m terrible! I’m very clean.
X: Our other friend who’s 94, l’m taking ’em out next Saturday. I’ve taken him out before. I take ’em
where there’s music and Anna dances the night away. She’s really spritely. She walks everywhere on
her own.
HA: She goes at the pie shop before she comes to Bingo. Gets a bus down.
X; Last time I took em done, I took em to the Bancroft Arms in Mile End Road. And we was there til
half past two in the morning. At two o’clock Anna went, oh my god, my family, I didn’t tell them
where I gone. They might wonder where I am, can I borrow your phone? I give her me phone, she’s
woken up her family. They don’t live with her, she’s woken em up purposefully anyway. After that
it’s all gone round the family, they phoned each other and said, nanny phoned me at 2 o’clock in the
morning, she was in the lock-up. (laughs) I’m taking her out next Saturday with my mum.
HA: Cause she helps Elaine, whose club it is… oh, you’re not working? You do sometimes. She’s very
good behind the bar. She can say, if someone said four Guinesses, gin and tonic, da da da… she can
add it out of her head. Marvellous.
X; We didn’t have calculators in my days.
HA: lt’s been handy for her, when she’s not at a job or at work, she can do that. lt’s really good that
you can earn a bit of money when you not got no job.
X: Any more questions?
l: I don’t think so, we’re alright.
HA: There’s one thing I’d like to tell you. When my husband was eighteen, he went to.,. the
government decided that all 1″8 year olds had to do two years Army service, so he got called up and
15
he was a cook in the Army. So he was… I told you. And after that, you know. When he come home
he said, I brought you a cookery book home. I said, oh that’s good, I was really thrilled. But what I
didn’t know, it was an Army cookery book. So it said, it was for 700 men. (laughs) And when I heard
thatlwaslike… lgotabitfunny.Oneminute.Solsaid, llookedatit, lsaid,for700men, lsaid
there’s only me and you. He was only very young. What have I got to do? He said, half that, half 700,
half that again, half that again… So I got wild now. I had one of them bins, when you go like that it
makes a really big noise. The lid comes down. So I said, every time I gotta do something for two I
gotta half it, half it, half it, half it. I said, you want me to swear? I said… I can’t tell you unless I swear.
I said, pack your f ucking cookery book – bam I And it went in the bin. And I never saw it ever since.
(laughs) I couldn’t do mathematics when I was young! lt’s like doing mathematics! ln school! You
gotta do your bleetin’… sorry I had to swear.
J:That’s a great story, lthink lwould have sworn too.
l: Thanks very much for your time. Thanks, Henrietta.
15
What follows is a list of all of the victims
VICTIMS LIST
AARONS, Betty Diana, 14. Daughter of Arnold Aarons.
ASSER, Jessie Louisa, 33. Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Sharman.
BAILEY Mary,72.
BAILEY, Rose Ethel May,41. Wife of William Bailey.
BAKER, George Stephen, 38. Husband of A. A. Baker.
BAKER, MinnieAmelia, 14. Daughter of A. A. Baker & George Stephen Baker.
BASS, Eileen Dorothy Margaret, 7. Daughter of Jesse and Maria Bass.
BEAKEN, Eileen Louisa, 17. Daughter of Henry Beaken and Ethel Louisa Beaken.
BEAKEN, Ethel Louisa, 53. Wife of Henry Beaken.
BEAKEN, Matilda Jean, 42. Daughter of Henry Beaken and Ethel Louisa Beaken.
BEGER/BERGER, Emily Jemima, 57.
BENDON, Elizabeth, 38.
BENNETT, Emma Maud, 48. Wife of Matthew Bennett.
BOSWORTH, Edith Priscilla, 50. Daughter of Mrs. P. Rudd, of 36 Hemming Street;
widow of William Bosworth.
BOSWORTH, lrene Priscilla, 17. Daughter of Edith Priscilla and the late William
Bosworth.
BOWLING, Bessie, 59. Wife of Thomas E. Bowling.
BOWLING, Eliza, 31. Daughter of Thomas E. Bowling and Bessie Bowling.
BOXER, Annie Louise,24. Daughter of George and Elizabeth Knight; wife of John
Boxer.
BROOKSTONE, lsrael,67. Husband of Sarah Brookstone.
BROOKS, Henry Norman, 10. Son ol Allred Edmund Brooks and Jessie Elizabeth
Brooks.
BROOK$, Jessie Elizabeth, 46. Wife of Alfred Edmund Brooks.
BUTTERFIELD, Allan, 3. Son of George and Charlotte Butterfield.
BUTTERFIELD, Charlotte, 28. Daughter of Mr and Mrs Hicks; wife of George
Butterfield.
BUTTERFIELD, George, 28. Son of Mr and Mrs Butterfield, husband of Charlotte
Butterfield.
CHANDLER, Doreen Mary, 14. Daughter of Thomas G. Chandler and Lilian Mary
Chandler.
CHANDLER, Lilian Mary, 31/35. Wife of Thomas G. Chandler.
CHAPMAN, Charlotte Elizabeth, 25. Daughter of Mr and Mrs Barr; wife of William
Edward Chapman.
CHAPMAN, George James, 23. Home Guard. Son of George Albert Chapman;
husband of Alice Chapman.
CLATWORTHY, lris Jean, 8. Daughter of Richard Henry and Carline Clatworthy.
CLATWORTHY, Joan Betty, 9. Daughter of Richard Henry and Garoline Clatworthy.
COLEMAN, Maude Louisa, 54. Wife of Edward George Coleman.
COLEMAN, Richard,34. Son of Henry Coleman and the late Elizabeth Coleman,
husband of Lilian Rose Coleman.
COLLETI Doreen, 10. Daughter of Charles Thomas Gollett and Rose Emma Collett.
COLLETI Ronald, 8. Son of Charles Thomas Collett and Rose Collett.
COLLETT, Rose Emma, 50. Wile of Charles Thomas Collett.
COURT, Patricia Marie, 24. Daughter of Mr and Mrs Murphy; wife of Thomas Court.
DAY, John Lewis, 69.
DONGREI Annie, 22.Wite of Leslie Dongrey.
ELLAM, Annie Eva, 44. Daughter of Mr and Mrs Hickey; wife ol William G. Ellam.
ELLAM, Frances Lilian, 20. Daughter of William G. Ellam and Annie Eva Ellam
ELLAM, Pauline Patricia, 2. Daughter of William G. Ellam and Annie Eva Ellam.
EL[-AM, Rosina Ellen, 17. Daughter of William G. Ellam and Annie Eva Ellam.
EMERY, Clara,77.
FLETCHER, Alexander, 3. Son of Alexander Fletcher (H.M. Forces) and Elizabeth
Fletcher.
FLETCHER, Elizabeth, 28. Daughter of James Ridley; wife of Alexander Fletcher.
FORBES, lrene Catherine, ’17. Daughter of Leonora Forbes.
FORBES, Leonora,57.
FOWLER, Mary Ann, 45.
FRENCH, Lilian, 29.
GEARY, Carole Ann, Smonths. Daughter of George Geary.
GEAHY, Sylvia Sadie, 6. Daughter of George Geary.
GROVER, Ethel, 48. Daughter of Mr and Mrs Sandle; wife of Josiah William Grover.
HALES, Joseph Alexander, 53. Husband of E. B. Hales.
HALL, Annie Jessie, 52. Wife ol William Thomas Hall.
HALL, Edna Phoebe, 13. Daughter of William Thomas Hall and Annie Jessie Hall.
HALL, lrene, 8. Daughter of Frederick Hall and Mary Ann Hall.
HALL, f\tlary Ann, 47. Wife of Frederick Hall.
HAMMOND, Rhoda, 44. Wife of John David Hammond.
HARRIS, Olive Margaret, 17. Daughter of Mr and Mrs Harris.
HAWLEY, Leonard Joseph, 64.
HAYMAN, Mary Ann, 19. Daughter of Albert Hayman.
HEWITI Mary Kathleen lvy,27, Wife of Leslie George Hewitt.
HIGGINSON, Emily, 62 Wife of John Ashworth Higginson, of 10 Seabright Street.
HILLIER, Mary Ann 61. Widow of Charles Edwin Hillier.
HISCOKE, lvy Winitred,22. Daughter of Mrs E. Nicholls; wife of Albert James
Hiscoke.
HOYE, Lillian, 13. Daughter of Louisa Hoye.
HOYE, Louisa, 44. Mother of Lillian, Margaret and Rosina Hoye.
HOYE, Margaret, 7. Daughter of Louisa Hoye.
HOYE, Rosina, 19. Daughter of Louisa Hoye.
HUTCHINSON, Joan Peggy, 10. Daughter of William Percy Hutchinson.
rHUTCHINSON,
William G, 6. Son of William Percy Hutchinson.
INGLE, Agnes Maud, 28. Wife of Stanley lngle.
JOHNSON, Caroline lvy, 14. Daughter of Maud Sophia Johnson.
JOHNSON, Ellen Emma, 6. Son of William Charles and Harriet Johns.
JOHNS, Peter Alan, 7. Daughter of Maud Sophia Johnson.
JOLLY, Sarah Ann, 51.
JONES, Estella, 59. Wife of J. B. Jones.
JULIER, Henry, 18. Son of Henry and Ethel Julier.
KOROBENICK, Eliza Matilda, 33. Daughter of Charles Victor Mead.
LAND, Barbara Anne, 7. Daughter of James William and May Land.
LAND, Martha Elizabeth, 55. Wife of Henry Albert Land.
LAPHAM, Ronald Roy, 15. Son of Mr and Mrs Lapham.
LAWSON, Anthony William, 7. Son of William Lawson.
LAWSON, Patricia Eileen, 3. Daughter of William Lawson.
LAZARUS, Morris, 42. Light Rescue Service. Son of Mr and Mrs Lazarus; husband of
Rosy Lazarus.
LECHMERE, Florence Rosetta, 66. Wife of Thomas Allen Lechmere.
LECHMERE, Thomas Allen, 66. Husband of Florence Rosetta Lechmere.
LECHMERE, Thomas Charles, 43. St. George Cross 4th Class. Son of Thomas Allen
Lechmere and Florence Rosetta Lechmere; husband of May Lechmere.
LEGGETT, Benjamin George, 31. Son of Mrs L. Leggett; husband of Rose Maud
Leggett.
LEGGEfi, Rose Maud, 31. Wife of Benjamin George Leggett.
LEGGETT, Roy Benjamin, 7. Son of Benjamin George and Rose Maud Leggett.
LEWIS, George Ronald, 10. Son of George Thomas Lewis and the late Jessie
Catherine Lewis.
LEWIS, Lillie Elizabeth, 14. Daughter of George Thomas Lewis and the late Jessie
Catherine Lewis.
LOFTUS, John Samuel, 13. Son of Mr and Mrs James Loftus.
LOFTUS, Louisa Ellen, 15. Daughter of Mr and Mrs Loftus.
MAGUIRE, Jean Mary, 8. Daughter of Mr and Mrs Maguire.
MASON, Charles, 50.
MATHEHS, Ruby, 18. Daughter of Albert Mathers.
MEAD, Eliza, 67. Wife of Charles Victor Mead.
MEAD, Florence Elizabeth, 35. Daughter of Ellen Garner; wife of George Mead.
MEAD, George Jnr., 10. Son of George and Florence Elizabeth Mead.
MEAD, George Snr.,38. Husband of Florence Elizabeth Mead.
MEAD, Kenneth, 12. Son of George and Florence Elizabeth Mead.
MEAD, Maureen, 4. Daughter of George and Florence Elizabeth Mead.
MORRIS, Derek,6. Son of Florence Maud Morris.
MORRIS, Florence Maud, 30. Daughter of George Morris.
MYERS, Jeffrey,6. Son of lsaac Myers and $ophie Myers.
MYERS, Sophie, 41. Wife of lsaac Myers.
NEVILLE, Alfred, 45.
NEWMAN, Doris, 9. Daughter of Louisa E. Newman and George John Newman.
NEWMAN, George John, 45. Husband of Louisa E. Newman.
NEWTON, Sarah Ann, 28. Daughter of Sarah Taylor and the late Henry Taylor; wife of
James David Newton.
NIXON, William Henry, 14. Son of Jane Nixon.
PAPWORTH, Rosina,27. Daughter of G. and S. Wheeler; wife of Henry Papworth.
PATTERSON, Mary, 44. Wife of James Robert Patterson.
PERRYMENI lris May, 17. Daughter of Alfred John and Caroline Florence
Perryment.
POOLE, Sarah Amelia Elizabeth, 54. Wife of Charles Alfred Poole.
PRICE, Rose Elizabeth, 27.
PUSEY, Emily, 48. Daughter of William and Catherine Sears; wife of Harry Pusey.
PUSEY, Harry, 50. Son of Henry and Eleanor Mary Pusey; husband of Emily Pusey.
QUORN, Emily Elizabeth, 43. Wife of John Edward Quorn.
QUORN, Gwendoline, 5. Daughter of John Edward Quorn and Emily Elizabeth
Quorn.
QUORN, William Frederick, 14. Son of John Edward Quorn and Emily Elizabeth
Quorn.
RAULINAITIS, Joseph, 32. Husband of Anna Raulinaitis.
REDWIN, Eileen Margaret, 7.
RELF, Hose Lilian Jnr., 13. Daughter of Reuben Henry Relf and Rose Lilian Relf.
RELF, Rose Lilian Snr., 41. Daughter of Maria Hines; wife of Reuben Henry Relf.
REYNOLDS, George Francis, 72.
RIDDELL, Stella Annie Violet, 13. Daughter of Violet Matilda Harriett Riddell and the
late William Seraphos Riddell.
RIDGWAY, Ellen, 28. Wife of Spr. G. Ridgway, R.E.
ROCHE, Edmund, 42. Husband of Rhoda Hoche.
ROCHE, Edward, 8. Son of Edmund and Rhoda Roche.
ROCHE, Joan Mary, 9. Daughter of Edmund and Rhoda Roche.
ROCHE, Rhoda, 40. Wife of Edmund Roche.
SCEATS, Lilian Doris, 15. Daughter of Mr and Mrs Sceats.
SEABROOK, Barry James, 2y 9m. Son of Mr and Mrs Seabrook.
SEABROOK, Sarah Florence, 62. Wife of James William Seabrook.
SEAR, William Herbert,50. Husband of Nellie Florence Sear.
SHARP, lrene Susan, 16months. Daughter of Mr and Mrs Sharp.
SHARB Kenneth Edward, 5. Son of Mr and Mrs Sharp.
SHEPHERD, Arthur Theodore, 42.
SINNOCK, Lydia Elizabeth,62. Wile of George Sinnock.
SMITH, DorothyAnn, 12. Daughter of Cyril Edward and Gertrude May Smith.
SPEIGHT, Edith Margaret, 47.Wite of Arthur Speight.
SPleER, Anthony Edwin, 4. Son of William and Eliza Elizabeth Spicer.
SPICER, Joan Pamela, 9. Daughter of William and Eliza Elizabeth Spicer.
STEVENS, Mary Ann Elizabeth, 55.
STRETCH, Rose, 39. Wife of William Stretch.
STRETCH, William Jnr., 9. Son of William and Rose Stretch.
STRETCH, William Snr., 49. Husband ot Rose $tretch.
TARBUCK’ George, 45. Son of Mrs P. Tarbuck; husband of Louisa Tarbuck.
TARBUCK, Louisa, 44.F.A.P. member. Daughter of Louisa Ward;wife of George
Tarbuck.
TAYLOR, James William, 12. Son of Henry and Maud Thylor.
TAYLOR, Sarah, 54.
THOMPSON, Kate, 53. Wile of William Richard Thompson.
THORPE, Barbara, 22 months. Daughter of Henry George Thorpe and Olive Thorpe.
THORPE, Marie, 11. Daughter of Henry George Thorpe and Olive Thorpe.
THORPE, Olive, 36. Wife of Henry George Thorpe.
TILBURY, Clara Selina, 49. Wife of Sydney Arthur Tilbury.
TRAYLING, lrene Lilian, 20. Daughter ol James and Mary Ann Marshall; wife of Gnr.
Alfred Arthur Trayling.
TRICE, lsabella Rose, 39.
TROTTER, Lilian Maud, 36. Wife of George Henry Trotter.
TROTTER, Vera Lilian, 7. Daughter of George Henry Trotter and Lilian Maud Trotter.
VANNER, Florence Eliza,49. Wife of John Vanner.
VANN, Maud, 23. Fire Guard. Daughter of G. and Louisa Branch; wife of James
William Vann.
WARRINGTON, Doris Beatrice, 16. Daughter of Mr and Mrs Warrington.
WELCH, James, 52. Husband of Alice Welch.
WHITEHEAD, James Henry, 69. Son of the late Charles and Mary Whitehead.
WILSON, Edna Rosina, 15. Daughter of Mr and Mrs Rosina H. Wilson.
WOOD, Alfred tfi/illiam, 63. Husband of Rose Lucy Wood.
WOOLNOUGH, Elsie Hilda, 37. Wife of Albert Charles Woolnough.
WOOLNOUGH, Olive Elsie, 12. Daughter of Albert Charles Woolnough and Elsie
Hilda Woolnough.
YEWMAN, John Robert Charles, l4months. Son of Alfred and Emily Yewman.

Log Entry 3
Architect’s Vision of the Memorial Site
Memorial to Bethnal Green Disaster – March 3 1945
Ananda Breed
9 February 2014

————
214/2015 ARCHITECT’S VISION

A RC HIT ECT ‘ S V ISIO N

architect's vision
One day in May 2006 when trai nee archi tect Harry Paticas wen t dmvn the steps into Bethnal Green tube station on his way to work , he happened to see ov erhead the memori al plaq ue to the v ictims of the Bethnal Green tube shelter disaster. It struck him as extraordi nary that 173 people had died i n that space on the steps. He decided to find out more: speaking to nei ghbou rs, who gav e hi m a range of different stories, and reading various reports. About a week later, going down the steps, the design for a
memmial struck him in an instan t: he could take a cast of the space where everybody died, tum i t upside down and lif t i t up abov e the stair in order to make a relationshi p bet,:veen the space w here the people had died and the memorial directly abov e.
A rare element would be tha t the memori al was actually where the disaster had happened . He sent his design to the l ocal F:.ast London Advertiser ,vith a short text. It was published with a headl ine something like ‘Local architect proposes Stairway to Heaven memorial ‘ . This was how the •Stairway to Heaven ‘ name for the memorial originated. \Vhen he Jater asked the newspaper if they had had any response they faxed him a barel y legible hand written letter. Harry managed to make out the name of Alf Nforris and his phone number. A week later Harry visited hi m at home in Hornchurch. When Alf opened h is front door he said , with tears i n his ev.., es: ‘I’ve wai ted 50 v.., ears for someone l ike you to come along.’ Alf loved the design, and he and Harry arranged a publi c meeti ng in St John’ s Church hall at which Harry tol d Alf’s story of the disaster which reduced half the audience of about 250 to tears. This must have been one of the first times that a publ ic mourni ng for the disaster had been allowed to happen.

Everyone seemed to agree that there should be a memorial. Harry estimated the cost at about £500,000- far less than man y other recent memorials. Denise Jones, Leader of the Council. announced from the back of the meeting that the Counci l would support the projec t. This \Vas a fantastic moment for everybody presen t. Af ter that, there has been lots of obstacles for the commi ttee, bu t over the eight years there has been ti me to listen to w hat the memorial charity vvants, adapt and improve the design after v isiting and learni ng from other memorial s, some of whi ch are some\vhat intimidati ng and ‘frontal ‘; so i t was decided that allowing the public to circulate around the sculpture vvould afford a richer experi ence, and bring people closer to the story.
Despite getting plan ni ng perm1 ss10n, London Underground refused to allow a memori al bu ilt directl y over the steps: they ,vere vvorried about health and safety . and a negati v e psychologi cal impact. The solution was to keep the same dimensions but to shift i t about three and a half metres to the side. Representing all those who died they also decided to cut 173 small l ight cones into the roof , angled towards south , to let spots of sun through onto the insi de of t.he cavity. At one end they woul d be dispersed , at the other more closely packed, giving a hi nt of the disaster. The memorial stairway would now be v isi ble from all parts of the road junction and make quite an impact.

It was decided that hav ing the stairway in bronze w ould be too expensive, and too heavy without a supporting frame, which would spoil the look of the inside. Wood might be suitabl e, and a company called Ti n Met had found a source of teak on the bed of the Irish Sea. A ship wi th a cargo of teak sailing from Burma to Li verpool Docks in 1917 had been torpedoed . The teak baulks had been salv aged from the sea. Not only \Vas this a connecti on to the war, but the wood was very du rable. The names of all those who died woul d be carved into the outside of the teak stairway . The bench already i n pl ace next to the memorial pl inths was of solid teak. Though this is the only part u sing the sahaged teak over the years, the rest has been bought up by others. A new shipment has had to be ordered from Burma. The pl i nth of pre-cast concrete already in place w as ideal for laying w reaths there were even two projecti ng discs onto which they could be laid; and two recesses were for laying bu nches of flmvers. On v isi ting the Cenotaph the commi ttee had noti ced the l ack of places for laying such off erings. Harry was v ery keen on sustainable design and , for the dark paving needed , they used Scottish w hi nstone rather than a foreign source. \Vith guidance from a skateboarder, steel studs w ere placed i n the ground by the plinth to deter skateboardi ng. Digging the foundations for the memorial had been a challenge, what ,vi th the complex of underground service pipes and cables. London Transport we had been very supporti v e.

memorial site
Texts on memorial s could be dry and alienating; it was decided to put personal testi monials on the pl i n th , and that the ages of the dead should be given as well as their names. At the annual memorial serv ice Harry sometimes has to read out some of thei r names. In a w ay he feels like he knows them and somehow feels their grati tude. He said a man
empl oyed in the ticket hall of the station had once seen the ghost of a boy •wearing shorts wal king through a \Vall , and he reall y believ es him. Li ving nearby Harry often passes the memori al. clears away any l i tter, sands off the (very rare) graffiti , and is always delighted if anyone is looking at the memorial or si tti ng on the bench . The memori al has already raised awareness hugely . For Harry this has been largel y a labour of lov e: what drove him to create was the wi ll to make things happen, and he feels. and hopes, that the memorial ,vill surely be completed

PROGRESS SO FAR

The Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust’s aim is to finish the memorial, situated next to the entrance of the tube station in Bethnal Green, dedicated to the memory of the 173 people of the community who lost their lives that day in March 1943, as well as to the survivors, many of whom lost friends and family in the disaster. In addition, the memorial will remember the Emergency Services, the firemen, policeman, ambulance, wardens, clergy and hospital staff who helped the injured. The charity is currently raising the funds required to complete the memorial which, it is hoped, will be unveiled at a ceremony as soon as possible.
If you wish to support us, please DONATE

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