Bethnal Green London Underground Station opened in December 1946 but it is for a pre-opening wartime incident for which it is best known. On 3 March 1941 the largest loss of civilian life in a single incident took place at the station.
The station was being used as an air-raid shelter and a few of those entering after the sounding of an air-raid siren fell on the entrance stairs. This had a domino effect and the result was a tragic 173 fatalities. Most died of asphyxiation or crush injuries; 60 others had injuries that required hospital treatment. The incident was not fully reported at the time in order to maintain public morale.
One contemporary report claimed that the incident was triggered by the firing of anti-aircraft rockets in nearby Victoria Park but this has never been confirmed. The disaster is marked by a plaque on the staircase where the incident occurred. in 2017 a more striking memorial was unveiled in Bethnal Green Garden, adjacent to the station. This takes the form of a inverted staircase bearing the names of those who perished.