It was mother-of-three Rose Lilian Relf’s birthday on the day of the disaster. She died with her thirteen-year-old daughter (who had the same name) in the crush on the steps. Her teenage son Ernie had to identify their bodies. Ernie’s daughter Jacqueline speaks sadly of her dad saying, ‘there was this whole silence around the family that wasn’t shared’.
You can listen to the recorded INTERVIEW below.
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: Jacqueline and Richard Aston TRANSCRIPT.pdf
Jacqueline and Richard Aston
Interviewer/s: Toby Butler
Date of Interview: 28th January 2014
Length of interview:
1 hour and 31 minutes
Any other info:
Introduction – interviewees talk about their background.
They explain their connection to the Bethnal Green tube station disaster. Jacqueline’s grandmother and aunt (both called Rose) were both killed in the disaster.
Jacqueline knows nothing about her grandmother and aunt who died, only that they had the same name and that one of them died on her birthday.
They discuss the fact that Jacqueline’s dad never spoke about the disaster. They know that Rose junior was 13 years old when she died.
Jacqueline says that the only thing her dad ever said about the disaster was that when he identified the bodies of his sister and mother, in St John’s church crypt, they were perfect and looked like they were asleep.
Jacqueline says that they were taken to St John’s church which became full of bodies. Therefore she thinks that maybe her relatives were among the last people to die at the top of the staircase?
They look at family documents connected to Jacqueline’s grandfather who was in the navy and then became a drayman.
Jacqueline says that she never understood why her father had to identify the bodies of his mother and sister when he was only 17 years old. She doesn’t understand why her grandfather didn’t do so.
She explains that after the disaster the younger sister in the family went to live with her grandmother in Peckham as her mum and older sister had died. She comments on the fact that this sister didn’t like living with her grandmother so instead went to live with
the family she’d been evacuated to during the war. Then she lost touch completely with her real family.
Jacqueline and Richard talk about where this younger sister was evacuated to – Leyland in Lancashire. They then add that Jacqueline’s dad did meet up with this daughter again just before he died, but the family have now lost contact with her again.
They talk about Jacqueline’s grandfather and question why he didn’t look after his daughter after the disaster. They are a bit confused about this.
They say that he was a brewery stableman and died aged just 44 years. They look at family documents and talk about earlier family history.
They discuss Jacqueline’s father and explain that during the war he was in the Fleet Air Arm. He served as an electrician on aircraft that flew on the Arctic convoys. He was based in the UK and served in the Isle of Man and Scotland. They remember he had a very bad stammer and think he had a tough East End childhood.
They tell a story about him living opposite the Kray twins and knowing them as young boys.
Jacqueline and Richard explain how after the war the family moved from Peckham to Kent and Jacqueline’s father became a successful salesman. He then set up his own print finishing business in Bermondsey.
Richard discusses his relationship with his father in law (Jacqueline’s father).
Jacqueline says that her dad never talked seriously about anything – he was always laughing and joking. She only found out what had happened to her grandmother and aunt when she was in her early teens.
When she was 20 years old Richard carried out research into her family’s history and then she found out more about the disaster.
She found out that Rose junior died when she was 13 years old and on her birthday.
Jacqueline thinks it odd that her dad never took her to Abney Road cemetery to see the graves of her grandmother and aunt.
Jacqueline and Richard discuss the fact that the disaster wasn’t talked about in the family. There was a silence surrounding it. All they knew was that people wrongly thought there had been an air raid the night of the disaster. Jacqueline says that because no one really knew what had happened there was a lot of blame afterwards and that must have been very difficult to deal with. Jacqueline has lots of unanswered questions.
Jacqueline discusses how her family was split apart by the war and the disaster.
Jacqueline talks about how they first heard about the building of the memorial and the memorial service. They read an article about it in the Daily Mail and later saw something on TV. They explain that the first time they went to the memorial service there were not many people there but now it has grown enormously. Jacqueline metan
old friend at the service and made new friends too. They discuss the connections that exist between all the people at the memorial services.
They discuss the sadness in the fact that there are a whole group of people at the memorial services that are all connected, but there’s not enough time or money to explore all the connections.
Jacqueline explains that she went to the memorial service initially in order to feel a connection with the grandmother and aunt she’d never known.
Jacqueline explains what she likes about the memorial. She likes the inverted staircase idea and thinks it’s in a good location where it connects to the old Bethnal Green. She feels the memorial has a lightness about it and seems hopeful. She also likes the way that people bring old photos and pieces they have written to put on it.
Jacqueline and Richard show the interviewer the death certificate of Jacqueline’s grandmother. It says that the two Roses died due to “suffocation from compression in a crowd…” Jacqueline wonders why it was typed and not handwritten.
She says that she hasn’t read much about the disaster. Also she couldn’t bring herself to watch a TV programme about it because she felt that she wouldn’t be able to deal with the sadness of all the other victims’ families as well as her own.
They talk about fundraising for the memorial.
Jacqueline talks about the significance of it for future generations. She says that it is important to help other families fill the black hole in their histories that she’d had in hers. She says her father would have loved it.
Jacqueline and Richard show the interviewer various family documents – birth, death and marriage certificates - and family photos for the interviewer to take copies of.
They continue discussing family death certificates and other documents. They show the interviewer grandmother Rose’s birth certificate from 1902.
Jacqueline and Richard’s son enter the room and they talk about the memorial and the project.
The interviewer explains how the memorial will look when finished.
They look at a photo of temporary handrails being installed at the Bethnal Green shelter soon after the disaster. They discuss how handrails were installed in all air raid shelters one week after the disaster.
They discuss family history and researching their family tree.
Jacqueline talks about her father’s career in the navy and as a horse keeper/ groom. They look at photos of various relatives and an artefact belonging to her father. She says how sad it is that the artefact (a bag/wallet) is the only thing her father had left from his childhood.
They discuss the connections that exist between East London and Kent and the significance of hop picking.
Still looking at family photos of various relatives and discuss where they were all taken. They look at a photo of grandmother Rose on her wedding day and a photo of
Jacqueline’s dad with his mother.
Focusing on photos of Jacqueline’s grandmother and aunt. They look at a photo of them standing together and the last photo taken of Rose senior before she died.
They discuss how sad it is that people don’t discuss their past and open up about the war and family traumas.