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.
Continue reading “The Tower Hill memorial”
So, there I am, walking up Chelsea Bridge Road towards Sloane Square. “Look at this!” says a man who has just passed me, “Look what I’ve just found!”
I turn round to see him picking something shiny off the pavement. My first thought was that it was a button off a Chelsea Pensioner’s tunic (we’re just by the Hospital) but then I see it’s a ring.
“Not mine” I say. “Not mine” says the man, “but look at it, it’s gold, look” and he presses it into my hand. “Look, gold” he says again, pointing to a hallmark (although it isn’t a proper hallmark, just two little stamps), “you have it. Your lucky day.”
Continue reading ““Your lucky day”: the gold ring scam”
“The Proud City” is a wonderful bit of film freely available on the Internet Archive. Made to sell the idea of the Abercrombie plan for London, it is passionate about the need to tackle the unsanitary conditions in which much of London’s inhabitants were forced to live, and about the benefits to all of a planned city where transport moved freely, where children had somewhere to play, and where ‘communities’ would thrive and develop. It also provides a great window onto the people and the landscapes of wartime London. I especially like the ‘men from the ministry’ types in their hats and three piece suits clambering over rubble and into living rooms, tape measures in hand.
Continue reading ““Big problems call for Big solutions” – the Abercrombie plan”
There is no shortage of books about London – either histories of the whole city or of specific districts, works on particular aspects of its life and culture, or illustrated books of varying degrees of quality.
The titles listed here are my favourite histories of the city; each has something different to offer and all are accessible by everyone from the casual reader to the professional historian.