ON THE WEB SINCE 2005

Fire Buffs promote the general welfare of the fire and rescue service and protect its heritage and history. Famous Fire Buffs through the years include Edward VII, who maintained a kit at a London fire station.

"THE RESCUE" - 1855

"THE RESCUE" - 1855

February 27, 2008

BETHNAL GREEN - 1943

Photo: BBC

During an air raid alert on March 3, 1943, men, women and children descended a stairwell into the shelter at the Bethnal Green underground station in London's East End. Suddenly, the crowd surged- and the crush killed 173 people, including 62 children.

Jimmy Hunt, a messenger at the Roman Road fire station, was among those sent to assist at the scene of the disaster.

``We were just told to lay out the bodies and then load them on to lorries,'' said Hunt, quoted years later by the Daily Mail. ``One or two near the bottom were still alive. But most of the faces, they were all purple and mauve.''

The emergency services - as well as the people who witnessed the crush - were told to stay mum. The government had decided to classify the accident as a secret. Not a word of it was printed in the next day's newspapers.

According to the BBC, ``It later emerged that people were startled after hearing a new type of anti-aircraft rocket being launched in Victoria Park, a few hundred yards away.''