Bombing of Britain - Why did the Bethnal Green Tube Shelter disaster happen?

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Extracts from a report of the Inquiry held by Mr. Laurence Dunne into the Bethnal Green Tube Shelter Disaster



To be kept under Lock and Key

Report of the Inquiry held by Mr. Laurence Dunne into the Bethnal Green Tube Shelter Disaster.

The Right Honourable
       Horbert S. Morrison, M.P.


6. On the 16th January, 1943, the papers published an account of a British raid on Berlin. The shelter was used by a fair number of people on the nights succeeding and particularly during the light German reprisal raid on the 17th January. It was noticed that a good many people were in the streets in the neighbourhood of the shelter who did not actually use it. On the 28th February 500 people were checked out of the shelter and on the 1st March, 587. News was received on the 2nd March of our heavy raid on Berlin on the 1st, and on that night 350 people actually used the shelter. Again many people were seen in the neighbourhood of the shelter in the streets, obviously up to a late hour prepared to use the shelter if an alert was sounded. The general expectation, however, seems from my inquiries too have been that a reprisal attack was far more likely to be launched on the 3rd.

7. The state of mind of the people of the area appeared most clearly during my inquiry. They take a most intelligent interest in the accounts of our bombing of the enemy, particularly remembering what they themselves experienced. They did not miss the optimistic accounts in our Press of the results achieved on this occasion, and had noted the changed nature of bombing tactics and the accounts of the results of the ultra-heavy bombs coming into use. The result was that people had made up their minds that in case an alert was necessary, or at any rate, wise to get into deep shelter with as little delay as possible. They were a little nervous and apprehensive, though not more so I think than is natural under the circumstances.


  Dead Injured and detained in hospital Discharged by 11th March


under 16






  173 62 30


38. Before going on to deal with the rain and contributory causes of the disaster I should like at this point to deal with two specific allegations which have received some publicity, and which are without any foundation whatsoever. Each may be dismissed with a very few words;-

    1. that this was a panic induced by Fascists or criminal persons for nefarious purposes. There were some deaths among men with criminal records. They and their relatives are as much entitled to sympathy as any of the other victims. This story had some local, and I hope limited, circulation. It is an absurdity.
    2. that this was a Jewish panic. This canard had a much wider circulation and was, I understand, endorsed by the broadcast utterances of a renegade traitor from Germany. Not only is it without foundation, it is demonstrably false. The Jewish attendance at this shelter was, and is, so small as to constitute a hardly calculable parcentage.