WWI 100: London’s Memorials… Finsbury War Monument
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.
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).
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.
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…”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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