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Service remembers wartime tragedy

2 March 08 16:16 GMT

An emotional service has been held in London to mark the 65th anniversary of the 1943 Bethnal Green Tube station disaster, in which 173 people died.

The disaster, in which 62 children lost their lives, happened on 3 March 1943, when people rushed to enter the station after an air raid warning.

A plaque at the station serves as a reminder of events, but survivors want a more permanent memorial.

The tragedy is said to be Britain's worst civilian incident during WWII.

The crush is thought to have started when a woman with a baby tripped in the darkness on wet steps.

The warning was, in fact, just British troops testing equipment in nearby Victoria Park.

Speaking at the memorial service, survivor Alf Morris, who was 13 years old at the time of the tragedy, said: "This permanent memorial has got to happen. All these people here lost relatives.

"You can't have this - hanging flowers on railings."

MP for Romford Andrew Rossingdale said having a permanent memorial was important.

'Poor souls'

"Huge numbers of people from the east of London were touched by this tragedy that took place.

"A wonderful memorial has taken place today and hopefully next year we are going to see the actual memorial itself erected on this spot.

"It is wonderful that something is being done to remember the poor souls who lost their lives on the tragic day."

He said he gave his full support to the Stairway to Heaven Trust, which is campaigning for the permanent memorial to be erected on the steps to Bethnal Green station.

Businesses in the area and London Underground are also being asked to help fund the memorial, which will cost £600,000.

A LU spokesman said London Underground was not able to fully fund the memorial because it was a public transport body but said "we'll do whatever we can to help bring a memorial about".

The memorial service was attended by survivors and relatives of those who lost their lives.

The campaigners believe the crush caused the greatest loss of civilian life through any single incident in Britain during WWII, although a similar number died when a packed air raid shelter suffered a direct hit by a bomb in Stoke Newington, north London, in October 1940.

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