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.