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Crush victims fell like pack of cards'

PUBLISHED: 17:09 18 February 2009 | UPDATED: 10:28 23 August 2010

MEMORIAL PLAN: Sandra Scotting and a treasured family photograph.

MEMORIAL PLAN: Sandra Scotting and a treasured family photograph.

BARRY called out her name, and that was the last thing she heard, but when they did pull them out he was dead. Every night of her life when she lay down she could hear the screams and cries, it never left her. These are the heartbreaking memories of I

BARRY called out her name, and that was the last thing she heard, but when they did pull them out he was dead. Every night of her life when she lay down she could hear the screams and cries, it never left her."

These are the heartbreaking memories of Ivy Brind, who was one of the survivors of ahorrific crush involving 300 people in London's Bethnal Green tube station in 1943.

Now after her death, daughter Sandra Scotting is trying to find survivors and relatives of the WWII tragedy which left 173 dead, including her grandmother and two-year-old cousin, Barry.

Regarded as the biggest single civilian casualty of the war, Mrs Scotting is leading a campaign to commemorate the dead on a memorial at the tube station.

The 61-year-old, of The Warrens, Hartley, helped launch the Stairway to Heaven charity to raise the £600,000 needed for a poignant memorial at the site.

Speaking to the Times she said: "People don't realise, this was the worst civilian disaster of WWII. It was mostly women and children who died. So we thought it deserved something more than the little plaque that has been put there."

On March 3 1943, people in Bethnal Green were expecting an imminent air raid and headed to the tube station which was being used as a shelter.

But when they heard a new anti-aircraft rocket firing nearby, they mistakenly thought they were being bombed and panic took over.

With the pain etched on her face Mrs Scotting added: "Whether it did fire at a plane, or whether it was test-firing, none of us know. We can't prove whether there was a plane there or not.

"But the stark reality is this new gun started sending up rockets at the rate of knots with the most deafening sound. The locals were used to ordinary guns going off, but this was something completely different. They thought the Germans had come over and dropped a brand new bomb. They were terrified. They didn't realise it was us."

Mrs Scotting's mother, Mrs Brind, then aged 25 who was carrying her two-year-old nephew Barry Seabrooke, and her grandmother Sarah Seabrooke, then 62, headed to the shelter too.

"As my mum was walking towards the tube, she saw all these people coming, and she didn't like crowds, so she thought 'no no, I'm not going in there'", she added.

"She was carrying Barry in her arms, and her own mum was up at the front.

"She turned around to go back, but she couldn't because the tide of people coming towards her was too strong. She got pushed and landed on her back, holding the baby in her arms, but she couldn't do anything. There were people on top of her. Barry said her name, and that was the last thing she heard, but when they did pull them out, he was dead, a beautiful two-year-old boy. She survived with injuries."

Later that night, still in shock, she was forced to wander to a makeshift mortuary and identify her dead mother.

Mrs Scotting said her mother only started to talk about the chaos that ensued on the 50th anniversary of the tragedy but recalled the horror in vivid detail as victims 'fell like a pack of cards' to certain death.

It is thought within 17 seconds 300 people became trapped leaving over half dead following a three hour rescue mission. Survivors were told not to speak of the tragedy to prevent German enemies locating the shelter.

Mrs Scotting said: "Nobody told anybody anything. Apart from noting the anniversary of the disaster every year, my mother never spoke about it

"But when it came to the 50th anniversary, there was a big memorial and my mother opened up about it. After that, little things would come out bit by bit, so I learned the story of what happened.

"In this day and age, you have counselling for post-traumatic stress, but there was nothing like that then. You just kept a stiff upper lip and that was it.

"But my mother did say that every night of her life when she lay down she could hear the screams and cries, it never left her."

Stairway to Heaven has identified about two thirds of the casualties, but Mrs Scotting is desperate to locate surviving family members so they can name all the victims on the memorial.

So far they have raised £70,000 towards the striking bronze sculpture, but they still need £530,000.

The campaign has the support of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and planning permission has been granted by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets for the memorial.

The charity is due to hold the 66th Anniversary Memorial Service at St. John on Bethnal Green Church next to the tube station on March 1 at 2.30pm.

elizabeth.thornton@archant.co.uk

If you have any information about the disaster, call charity chairman Alf Morris on 01708 444 154, email info@stairwaytoheavenmemorial.org or visit www.stair

waytoheavenmemorial.org.

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