The American Memorial Chapel, St Paul’s

If you’ve seen Herbert Mason’s photo ‘St Paul’s Survives’ – the dome of the cathedral still standing proud as the smoke of the Blitz rises on all sides – you’d be forgiven for thinking that St Paul’s came through WW2 unscathed.

Although it was relatively undamaged on the night that photo was taken (29/30 December 1940) as the City of London burnt all around it, it did suffer various attacks. In particular, on the night of 9th October 1940, a bomb hit the east end of the Cathedral, exploding in the roof and destroying the high altar and damaging the reredos (the ornamental screen) and stained glass windows behind.

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No Pasaran! The Jubilee Gardens Memorial

no pasaran the international brigades memorial in jubilee gardens london

The British and other foreign fighters travelling to Ukraine to resist Putin’s invasion are an echo of 85 years ago, some 35,000 non-Spaniards (2,500 from Britain) joined the ‘International Brigades’ to go to Spain to fight for the Republican forces against Franco’s Nationalist rebels in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).

Some 50 years later, in October 1985, a memorial to the British members of the International Brigade was unveiled in Jubilee Gardens on the South Bank by the then Labour Party leader Michael Foot.

Called ‘No Pasaran’ (“they shall not pass”, the call to arms in a speech at the start of the Battle of Madrid in 1936) it is a bronze by the sculptor Ian Walter. On one face of the plinth is an inscription honouring “The 2100 men and women who left … to fight side by side with the Spanish people” (526 of these were killed) and on another  “they went because their open eyes could see no other way”, and adaption of a line from Cecil Day Lewis’s poem ‘The Volunteer’. 

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The Bomb Damage maps

During the war the London County Council surveyors chronicled the devastation caused by enemy bombing on the capital. Hand colouring street level OS maps, they plotted the buildings damaged; generally speaking, the darker the colour, the more the devastation – black was “total destruction”, purple “damaged beyond repair”, right through to yellow “blast damage: minor in nature”.

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April photos

Some snaps from the phone from walking around this month. Click on any image to see the whole galley

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Royal Artillery Memorial, Hyde Park Corner

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Today I was going to go round Banqueting House, the last properly surviving bit of the old Palace of Whitehall, but when I got there it was closed for an event, so I went off and photographed some war memorials instead.

Of all the memorials in London, the most striking is the Royal Artillery Memorial located on (essentially) the traffic island at Hyde Park Corner. You can see it as you sit on the bus as it heads north, but it’s well worth taking the time to get up close.

Designed by Charles Jagger and Lionel Pearson, the Memorial is a stunning piece of realist sculpture and one of the finest examples of statuary anywhere in London.

There are some pictures below of details from the bronze figures around the monument and from the sculpted friezes, and a broader selection can be found here

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The Tower Hill memorial

Directly across the road by the Tower of London, hard by the tube station is the Tower Hill Memorial to sailors of the merchant navy and fishing fleets who were killed in the two World Wars and who have ‘no grave but the sea’. (See Google maps.)

There are over 35,000 names inscribed in the Memorial’s two sections; just under 12,000 from the First World War and around 24,000 from the Second. Although overall British casualties in WW2 were substantially lower than in the Great War, the losses of the merchant marine show the dependence of Britain on imported goods and materiel during the conflict, as well as the ferocity of the German U-boat and naval assault on British shipping. Both sides knew that Britain could be defeated if starved of food and resources.

Despite its location, the memorial is not visited much by tourists; walk through the metal gates and you will be in a peaceful enclosed space that seems insulated from much of the traffic and city noise. The original memorial, opened in 1928 by Queen Mary, is quite dark and enclosed, taking the form of a vaulted corridor with 12 bronze plaques on which are listed the names of the dead.

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