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The Bethnal Green Tube Tragedy. 1943

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posted on May, 23 2009 @ 09:57 AM
An item on BBC Radio 4 this morning covered a wartime incident which has always intrigued me, The Bethnal Green Tube Tragedy. Why am I posting about a WW2 civilian tragedy at a London Underground Station in an aviation forum? Please read on.

On the evening of march 3 1943 at approx. 8:00 p.m air raid sirens sounded across the East End of London. In the Bethnal Green district, people made for the shelter of the Underground Station. It had been raining, the steps down into the station were wet and (because of the blackout) poorly lit. What happened next has always been something of a mystery. Half a mile away, in Victoria park, an Anti Aircraft Battery went into action, despite the fact that no aircraft were overhead.

However, they were not using the familiar anti aircraft guns. Reports following this incident talk of a 'Secret' rocket weapon, an 'Anti Aircraft Rocket Battery' and even 'Rocket Guns'. The strange and unfamiliar noise (described as a 'whooshing') of the salvo caused panic amongst those trying to take shelter in the Tube. Many thought it was the sound of falling bombs.People fell, there was a crush and 173 died in in the Station. News of the disaster was suppressed under wartime press regulations. But what was fired that night?

I have never been able to confirm the deployment of Anti Aircraft rockets in British cities during the war.

If they were rockets, they would have been un-guided and would have posed a greater danger to the civilian population than any enemy bombers.

Why were they fired when there were no aircraft in the area?

I'd be interested to hear if any one has any answers to these questions. All the reports I've read on this incident, which was the worst 'Civilian' wartime tragedy of WW2, are very light on detail. No one seems sure just what was fired from Victoria Park on that evening. Whatever it was, it seems that during subsequent air raids, the batteries in the Park used only guns.


posted on May, 24 2009 @ 01:35 AM
A link you may find interesting:

On the command " Fire", No1 pushed down hard on a lever. The
lever actuated first an external contracting friction brake, which locked the bearing setting securely. futher pressure on the lever
made contact with a plunger that completed the electrical firing circuit that sent the rockets on their way.
With a mighty Whoosh and a roar the roundshurled themselves
skyward. At the altitude set by the fuse the128 rockets exploded
more or less in unison to create a massive box of fire to the detriment of the German raiders and the joy of Londoners.
The sound made by the salvo was completely awe inspiring in its
noise and ferocity.

Personally I'd hate to be a civi hearing this for the first time, I wonder if they were trying to fire at a V1. Hence using this system instead of simple guns. Fill the sky with metal and hope for the best.


posted on May, 24 2009 @ 02:48 AM
reply to post by RAB

RAB. Thank you. A great link which explains a lot. I always thought 'Z' Batteries were surface to surface rockets (they were used for shore bombardment on D day). I wonder whether they ever hit any aircraft?

posted on May, 24 2009 @ 04:46 AM
My late grandfather died in 1950-51, having been a WW1 veteran (a gas instructor!). In about 1929 he joined the Underground on the permanent way and became a Ganger Formean. In the war these guys had new jobs: dealing with bodies caused by bombing of Underground (tube) stations. After seeing the piles of bodies at Bethnal Green he went home and said he had had enough and resigned. He was deeply affected..possibly seen enough in the previous conflict.

I gather that the British tried a surface-to-air rocket from 1944?? I have seen a photo of one, and it is rumoured that one fired in Southampton hit an aircraft.

posted on Jun, 5 2009 @ 11:36 PM
Really interesting post.
Personally much of my family is from Bethnal Green and I believe some family friends died in the incident.
What has always puzzled me about the incident is the fact that the station was not completed at the time and as such raises questions over whether the tragedy was made worse by this.
Secondly Victoria park, then in the middle of a targeted industrial area, seems a very odd area to test a weapon so secret that the public couldn't even be warned of it; especially bearing in mind that it would have been visible for German aircraft. Definitely not Peenemünde.


posted on Jun, 8 2009 @ 04:32 AM
I've had a look at the link RAB suggested and a few other sources. As Historian said, there was a Battery protecting the docks at Southampton which claimed at least one 'kill' there was also a battery in Cardiff which is credited with a confirmed kill. I can't find much on The Hyde Park or Victoria Park batteries or any pictures of them in action.

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