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Category Archives: WW1 100: London’s Memorials

WWI 100: London’s Memorials… The London Troop Monument

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The London Troops Monument

The Royal Exchange

The London Memorial (aka the London Troops Memorial) outside the Royal Exchange

The London Memorial (aka the London Troops Monument) outside the Royal Exchange

It is estimated that around 900,000 men from London fought in the Great War, approximately 300,000 of who were killed or injured.

Recruiting office at Great Scotland Yard, August 1914

Recruiting office at Great Scotland Yard, August 1914

Standing outside the Royal Exchange in the heart of the financial district, the ‘London Memorial’ lists all of the regiments from the capital involved in the horrendous conflict and commemorates the countless Londoners who lost their lives.

The London Memorial (aka the London Troops Monument) as seen looking towards Bank junction

The London Memorial as seen looking towards Bank junction

The memorial’s Portland stone plinth was designed by the then President of the Royal Academy, Sir Aston Webb (who was also responsible for Admiralty Arch and the Queen Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace), whilst the two figures standing either side were created by Alfred Drury.

One of Alfred Drury's life-sized figures

One of Alfred Drury’s life-sized figures

The memorial is topped with a small lion, bearing a shield adorned with St George and the Dragon.

The memorial's lion figurehead

The memorial’s lion figurehead

The memorial is Sir Aston Webb’s second design– his first idea was quite different, consisting of two 75 ft. tall flag poles at the base of which would have been statues of Victory and Peace.

Sir Aston Webb, chief architect behind the London Memorial

Sir Aston Webb, chief architect behind the London Memorial

Costing £7,000 (around £150,000 in today’s money), the monument was funded by public donations.

In order to make room for the memorial, a fountain topped by a statue of Temperance- which had been on the site since 1861 after being presented by the philanthropist, Samuel Gurney, required removal. It was relocated and can be seen today at the northern end of Blackfriars Bridge.

The fountain which once stood outside the Royal Exchange and was relocated to make way for the London Memorial

The fountain at Blackfriars which once stood outside the Royal Exchange and was relocated to make way for the London Memorial (image: Geograph)

The London Troops Memorial was unveiled in foggy conditions on the afternoon of the 12th November 1920 by the Duke of York who was accompanied by the Lord Mayor and the Bishop of London.

The London Memorial on Armistice Day in 1937 (image: London Illustrated News)

The London Memorial on Armistice Day in 1937 (image: London Illustrated News)

The Duke of Connaught (the King’s Uncle) was also due to participate but had to bow out due to bronchitis. He sent a telegram which was read out at the ceremony;

While deeply regretting that I cannot unveil the memorial to London’s splendid soldiers, my thoughts and feelings are with you at today’s interesting occasion and I hope the memorial will always recall the gallant services rendered by London’s sons…”

Two young men contemplate the London Memorial, November 2014

Two young men contemplate the London Memorial, November 2014

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Great Loss of Life: Oceanic House & the Titanic Newsboy

Quietly sitting on Cockspur Street just yards away from Trafalgar Square is a grand Edwardian block known as Oceanic House.

Oceanic House

Oceanic House

The site was originally home to the Pall Mall restaurant where, on January 26th 1871 the Rugby Football Union was founded- an event now commemorated by a plaque.

Rugby Union plaque

Rugby Union plaque

Oceanic House was built between 1903 and 1906 as the London office for the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company– more commonly known as the White Star Line.

During their time, White Star operated many mighty vessels… the most famous being the luxurious RMS Titanic which sank during the early hours of April 15th 1912 whilst on her maiden voyage.

1,517 perished as a result.

The Titanic departs Southampton, 10th April 1912

The Titanic departs Southampton, 10th April 1912

Shortly after news of the Titanic’s fate reached shore one of the most iconic images associated with the disaster (and indeed the 20th century itself) was snapped outside London’s Oceanic House:

Newspaper boy bearing the  awful headline outside White Star's London office

Newspaper boy bearing the awful headline outside White Star’s London office, April 16th 1912

The newsboy clutching the poster was Ned Parfett, a 16 year old lad from Waterloo’s Cornwall Road.

In 1916, four years after the famous picture was taken, Ned enlisted in the army and soon found himself embroiled in the hellish trenches of the Great War.

Ned’s service was exemplary- he was awarded the Military medal for bravery.

Tragically, aged 22, Ned was killed by a shell on the 29th October 1918 just 13 days before the guns fell silent on the armistice.

Outside Oceanic House today... where Ned Parfett once bore newspapers announcing the fate of the Titanic

Outside Oceanic House today… where Ned Parfett once bore newspapers announcing the Titanic’s fate

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WW1 100: London’s Memorials… The London & South Western Railway Victory Arch (Waterloo Station, Part 5)

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London & South Western Railway Victory Arch
Cab Road, Waterloo Station
Waterloo Victory Arch, Can Road (map: Google).

Waterloo Victory Arch, Cab Road (map: Google).

As we’ve seen in earlier installments,Waterloo station developed in an extremely haphazard manner throughout the Victorian period.

Waterloo station during the Victorian era.

Waterloo station during the Victorian era.

With the terminal divided into various sub-stations, platform numbers laid out in a manner defying all common sense and a set of tracks running directly across the main pedestrian concourse (a Health and Safety nightmare by today’s standards), it is perhaps no surprise that Waterloo was branded “the most perplexing station in London.”

Realising that their ultimate dream of establishing a grand terminal within the heart of the City was off the cards, the board of the London and South Western Railway decided to completely redesign Waterloo and forge it into a station fit for purpose.

Work on the rebuild began in the late 1890s but progress was slow… with one of the main obstacles being the outbreak of hostilities in 1914.

During the Great War, 585 employees of the London and South Western Railway were killed whilst fighting for their country.

Two brothers bid farewell at Waterloo station.

Brothers in Arms… two siblings who served in the Great War; one in the Navy, the other in the Army bid farewell at Waterloo station.

In recognition of this appalling loss, the company decided to incorporate a bold war memorial- a ‘Victory Arch’- into the new station’s entrance in honour of their fallen workers.

Waterloo station's 'Victory Arch'.

Waterloo station’s ‘Victory Arch’.

The new station- the Waterloo familiar with today’s commuters- was finally completed in March 1922.

King George V was due to conduct the opening ceremony but was forced to bow out due to illness, so Queen Mary stepped in to do the honours.

A number of decorated veterans from the Great War were also in attendance for the grand event… please click below to view footage of the station’s opening.

Although millions of passengers sweep beneath Waterloo’s Victory Arch every year, very little is known about its creator, other than that he is believed to have been a Mr Charles Edward Whiffen, a Cheltenham-born sculptor who lived and died at Altenburg Gardens, Clapham.

When he died in 1929, Charles Whiffen had just £662 and 15 shillings to his name.

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Waterloo’s Victory Arch is dominated by a sculpture of Britannia bearing the torch of liberty.

Britannia over Waterloo's main entrance.

Britannia, high over Waterloo’s main entrance.

Below Britannia, the names of the Great War’s major theatres are listed in a carved arc: Belgium, Italy, Dardanelles, France, Mesopotamia, Egypt and the North Sea.

The Great War's main battlefields...

The Great War’s main battlefields…

Either side of the arc stand two further sculptures.

Figures representing 1914 and 1918.

Figures on the left and right representing 1914 and 1918.

On the left, representing the outbreak of war in 1914, squats Bellona; the ancient Roman goddess of war.

Bellona...Roman goddess of war.

Bellona…Roman goddess of war.

This suitably demonic figure holds court amongst a terrified entourage.

Suffering figures cower beneath Bellona.

Figures cowering beneath Bellona.

On the opposite side of the arch, representing peace and the 1918 armistice, sits Athena; the goddess of courage and wisdom.

Athena, who is accompanied by a far more relaxed group than the unfortunate bunch cowering around Bellona, is depidted clutching two objects; a palm of peace and a miniature figure of Nike; the winged goddess of victory.

Athena representing peace in 1918.

Athena representing peace in 1918.

Solemn plaques, bearing the names of the many LSWR railwaymen lost in the conflict line the interior of the arch.

One of a number of plaques inside Waterloo's main entrance listing the many men of the London and South Western Railway who died serving their country.

One of a number of plaques inside Waterloo’s main entrance listing the many men of the London and South Western Railway who died serving their country.

If you are a regular user of Waterloo, please spare a thought for these long lost names… and remember that missing your train by a few minutes is nothing in comparison to the hellish conditions in which these young men met their awful fate.

Troops say goodbye to their families at Waterloo Station before heading for battle (image: Christian Broom).

Troops say goodbye to their families at Waterloo Station before heading for battle (image: Christian Broom).

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