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Obituary: Dr Joan Martin (102) who saved many lives at the Bethnal Green Tube Disaster

Born in November 1915 Joan trained as a doctor at the Royal Free Hospital. In 1943 she found herself the only Casualty Doctor (a junior doctor at that) on duty at the Queen Elizabeth Children’s Hospital on the night of the fateful Bethnal Green Tube Disaster. This was the UK’s largest single loss of civilian life during World War II where more than 170 people were crushed to death. Joan led the team treating the casualties at the hospital and saved many lives. She was advised by the Government never to mention what happened that night. It was only in her 80s that she started to speak of it. She suffered regular nightmares as a result of that night.In the early 1960s she set up the ‘Swimming for Disabled People’ club based at Walmer Road, Kensington where, together with John Scott & other volunteers, she provided this service for over fifty years (she gave up at 96!) Joan was awarded an MBE for 1985 and aged 88 she dived in the Agean Sea to save the then Bishop of Kensington from drowning. Local resident, Joy Puritz, wrote Joan’s autobiography in 2011 ‘
‘Passing the Flame: The Life and Work of Dr Joan Martin’ detailing Joan’s extraordinary life, including her work, not just as a medic and doctor, but also as Girl Gider, Pilgrim,Volunteer and devout Christian. In May 2012, at the recommendation of Lucy Elliott, Joan was awarded as Runner-up in the The Times/Sternberg Active Life Award 2012
resulting in a trip to No. 10 Downing St. In 2014 a group of friends arranged a surprise party. Joan was sadly ill, but it turned out we were a year early (!) and in 2015 to great fanfare Joan was given a huge party, with many friends coming long distances to share her celebration. Last December, a monument was finally unveiled to recognise those who had died in the 1943 Disaster. Joan was well enough to attend this event and to the end, she had full clarity. She died amongst friends, at home on January 15, 2018. A life (very) well lived.
A memorial service for Joan will be held at St Mary Abbots on 15 February at 11.00 am.

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