Category Archives: WW1 100: London’s Memorials

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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WWI 100: London’s Memorials… Finsbury War Monument

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Finsbury War Monument

Spa Green, Rosebery Avenue

Just across the road from Saddler’s Wells Theatre on Rosebery Avenue is a small, pleasant park called Spa Green, a major feature of which is the Finsbury War Monument.

Finsbury War Memorial

Unveiled on the 15th September 1921 and costing £3,000 (approximately £88,000 in today’s money), the memorial was funded by donations from local residents to commemorate the men of the Metropolitan Borough of Finsbury who had fought and died in the Great War (Finsbury was abolished as administrative district in 1965 and now comes under the London Borough of Islington).

Finsbury War Monument at the time of its unveiling in 1921 (image: London Illustrated News)

Finsbury War Monument at the time of its unveiling in 1921 (image: London Illustrated News)

Because it is representative at a distinctly local level, the monument is unusual in that it commemorates all three branches of the armed forces as well as specific battles in which they fought.

The north-west side is dedicated to the Finsbury Rifles (the 11th London Regiment) who fought in France, Belgium, Gallipoli, Egypt, Palestine and Syria. A bronze plaque depicts their part in the Second Battle of Gaza which raged against the Ottoman Army for several days in April 1917.

The Second Battle of Gaza, as depicted on the Finsbury War Monument.

The Second Battle of Gaza, as depicted on the Finsbury War Monument.

Originally there were two other bronze reliefs depicting other battles attached to the plinth. Sadly, they were stolen many years ago and have been replaced with granite inscriptions.

On the north-east side, the navy are commemorated; “These are they that went down to the sea in ships and did business in great waters…”

Finsbury War Monument's naval dedication.

Finsbury War Monument’s naval dedication.

More specifically, the Zeebrugge Raid of April 23rd 1918, in which the Royal Navy attempted to block German access to the Belgian port, is commemorated. The raid resulted in the loss of 200 lives and saw 8 Victoria Crosses awarded.

Aerial view of the Zebrugge Raid aftermath (image: Wikipedia).

Aerial view of the Zebrugge Raid aftermath (image: Wikipedia).

Zebrugge Plaque

The south-east side of the memorial is dedicated to those who flew, fought and died in the Royal Flying Corps throughout the duration of the war. The granite plaque is aptly adorned with a little propeller set against a blue background.

Royal Flying Corps

Also commemorated on the south side are those of the Honourable Artillery Company who fought in Egypt, Palestine, Italy, Belgium, Aden and Syria. A third, smaller plaque was added at a later date in memory of those who died in WWII.

The large statue on top of the plinth is a representation of the Roman goddess, Victory and was sculpted by Thomas Rudge at his studio on Bolingbroke Grove, Wandsworth.

Victory

Today, Rudge’s sculpture appears to be a very popular spot for London’s pigeons whose gentle flapping and cooing is often the only sound to be heard in this solemn, peaceful place. 

Pigeons

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WWI 100: London’s Memorials… Cyprus Street

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Cyprus Street Memorial

Cyprus Street, Bethnal Green

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Across the UK, most of the memorials dedicated to those who perished in WWI were created in an official capacity.

However, right in the heart of London’s East End (Bethnal Green to be precise) on a quiet road called Cyprus Street, there stands a memorial which is somewhat different…

Cyprus Street Memorial

The Cyprus Street Memorial.

As the Great War raged between 1914 and 1918, memorials similar to the one on Cyprus Street became a common sight across Britain; unofficial shrines to local men who had been killed in battle.

Such sanctums were erected on a temporary basis and were later replaced by grand, official memorials in the years following the armistice.

The Cyprus Street plaque was originally paid for by the Duke of Wellington’s Discharged and Demobolised Soldiers and Sailors Benevolent Club; a group who were based at and took their name from a local pub. 

Cyprus Street sign

After the war, the Cyprus Street memorial was maintained for a special reason: the 26 East End lads named on the plaque represented the highest loss to hit a single London street.

Plaque

In the 1960s the Cyprus Street memorial was nearly lost for good when the local housing association decided to plonk a modern block of flats on the site.

During the demolition of the house upon which the memorial was located, the plaque was damaged. Thankfully the pieces were rescued and stashed away in a pub for safekeeping.

1960s flat blocks on Cyprus Street- the building on the left marks the original location of the WWI memorial.

1960s flat blocks on Cyprus Street- the building on the left marks the original site of the WWI memorial.

Following this callous blow, the local tenants association clubbed together to fund a replica- the version which can be seen today, a short distance from its original location.

Location of the Cyprus Street memorial as it appears today; about 500 ft from the original location.

Location of the Cyprus Street memorial as it appears today; about 500 ft from the original site.

Today, the Cyprus Street memorial is lovingly maintained by two elderly locals; Ron Sale and Dave Stanley who hope that their work will be taken on when they are no longer around to do so.

Cyprus Street Plaque