Steph Brammar

Steph's maternal grandmother and grandfather lived in Bethnal Green at the time of the disaster. She was mayor, he was a shelter warden at Bethnal Green underground shelter. Steph learned about the disaster from her mother, who was a emergency switchboard operator at the time and on duty on the night of the accident, connecting wardens to emergency services. Steph's grandfather suffered a nervous breakdown after the disaster and the inquiry that followed it, and could not forget what he had seen for the rest of his life. He and his wife moved away from London as a consequence. Her grandmother still had responsibilities in Bethnal Green and set up a fund to support the victims. Steph's grandmother (as well as other city council members) was spat at on the street and experienced a lot of harassment as a result of not being allowed to speak about what had happened or defend herself (by order from the central government under threat of the Official Secrets Act). This also contributed to their decision to leave London for Birkenhead.  

 

You can listen to the recorded INTERVIEW below.

Read the interview SUMMARY online below, or click on the icon to read or download: steph brammar summary.pdf

The summary gives timed sections which direct you to specific parts of the recording.

Click on the icon to read or download the complete TRANSCRIPT: steph brammar transcript.pdf

Summary

 

 

Interviewee/s: Steph Brammar

Interviewer/s: Joy Puritz

Date of Interview: 1st July 2014

 

Location: Bristol

Length of interview: 17 minutes

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Summary:

 

 

 

Introduction. Steph's maternal grandmother and grandfather lived in Bethnal Green at the time of the disaster. She was mayor, he was the chief warden of Bethnal Green tube station.

 

Steph learned about the disaster from her mother, who was a emergency switchboard operator at the time and on duty on the night of the accident, connecting wardens to emergency services.

 

Steph's grandfather suffered a nervous breakdown after the disaster and the inquiry that followed it, and could not forget what he had seen for the rest of his life. He and his wife moved away from London as a consequence. Her grandmother still had responsibilities in Bethnal Green and set up a fund to support the victims.

 

Steph's grandmother (as well as other city council members) was spat at on the street and experienced a lot of harassment as a result of not being allowed to speak about what had happened or defend herself at all. This also contributed to their decision to leave London for Birkenhead. 

 

Once settled in the Liverpool area, she became a Labour councillor there. Her husband opened a café and never returned to public service.

 

Steph did not get involved in the Bethnal Green Memorial campaign until her mother, who suffers from dementia, had hardly any memory of the time of the disaster and the details of how it affected her family. She recalls being told in the past that the Borough had requested a handrail to be installed in the station by the Home Office, but that the request had been turned down.

 

Steph recalls reading the report of the disaster that her grandmother typed up herself in the aftermath. It appears that she tried to speak to the press about it, but Steph has been unable to find any records of this.

 

Steph's mother told her about the bodies being carried out of the tube station and being lined up on the pavement, and the way the bodies were interlocked in the staircase, making it almost impossible for rescue workers to separate them.

 

Steph reads out a newspaper clipping describing her grandmother, whose name was Margaret Dyson, and her work as a councillor from 1942-1952. She had eight children, four of them boys, who all fought during the War.

 

Steph was born in Roman Road, and grew up with strong tied to her close-knit family despite leaving Bethnal Green at age four.

 

She believes her paternal grandfather also worked as a public servant.

 

She shares some family stories of the War, sleeping on bunk beds in the Town Hall, making lemonade with Alka Seltzer, celebrating whenever the young men came home on leave. Her maternal grandmother, Maggie, worked on radio broadcasts during the War. Steph's uncle was a boxer in Bethnal Green. Steph's mother and grandfather also spoke of an allotment they started in the park once it had been turned over to Bethnal Green citizens for gardening. Steph's mother and her sisters painted stocking seams onto their legs with gravy browning.

 

Steph's parents married just before the War, and her father got called away for duty. Her mother recalled attending dances with American soldiers and accepting gifts of chocolates and nylons from them.

 

Around 1950, Steph's family was re-housed in Chingford. She grew up hearing many stories of the vibrant life in Bethnal Green. Today, her connection to the neighbourhood is her daughter, who is a journalist in London.