Memorials

I think it’s the historian in me, but wherever I go in London I notice the war memorials. Many Edwardian bank offices have them, a church plaque obviously, or particularly the lists of staff in railway stations. Was it because these working class men were more likely to be in the trenches, or was it sometimes because their civilian job exposed them to bomb raids?

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For the survivors I wonder what it was like walking past these plaques each day. In Waterloo the memorial is dirty brass lettering screwed onto the wall of the almost grotesquely triumphant Southbank entrance; in King’s Cross it was a warm marble slab with black lettering, now rather horribly broken up into individual columns in cheap metal stands, and these are from Liverpool Street.

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I find this pair particularly moving, one commemorating a man active in the Neutral States, and another his comrade who died within 2 hours of unveiling the first memorial:

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Interestingly, just as the war graves commission unified the dead in France and Belgium, so a commission formed – much to the anger of local communities, who wanted to raise their own monument – to codify the British war memorials.

It’s part of what makes the war memorial in a high street so recognisable, and that was a key point of implementing the single design, but you can imagine the grief and anger of a community who felt they’d had the municipal cut price option foisted on them. Again, station memorials often rebel against this, from the four Tommies in the Euston forecourt memorial to this outside Chancery Lane Tube. Can you see the difference in effort that went into these statues as compared with the typical mould?

Northwestern Railway Company WW1 memorial

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Photos spring and autumn 2016, my own except for the Euston photo, which is a stock photo.

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