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Category Archives: WW1 100: London’s Memorials

The Christmas Truce, December 24th 1914

In early January 1915 and with conflict raging in Europe, The Illustrated London News carried the following cover depicting a moving scene in which a German soldier, in a brave gesture of peace, approaches British troops with a little, lit tree on Christmas Eve.

The London Illustrated News, January 9th 1915

Drawn by an artist on the frontline, the image was accompanied by the following caption:

On some sections of the battle-front the Germans decorated their trenches with Christmas-trees and paper lanterns, and invited our troops to stop shooting and come over to smoke and have a palaver. With one accord a truce for the night was arranged, and the compliments of the season were passed with much enthusiasm between friend and foe.

The cessation of hostilities continued all the next day. Both sides fraternised and spent a Happy Christmas.”

Another image from the same issue depicted German and British troops swapping headgear and enjoying a good laugh and smoke together:

German and British troops together, Christmas 1914

German and British troops together, Christmas 1914

Although it may sound tenuous of me to say, these are stories and images which I can relate to.

As a London Cabbie, I have the pleasure of meeting passengers from all over the world; people from a vast array of creeds, races and backgrounds…. and the one thing which always shines through is humanity; the ability of most people, no matter where they’re from, to display friendliness, a polite nature and a good sense of humour.

 Peace to you all & a very merry Christmas

 

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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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