Symbols & Secrets

Walking the City of London

Adding life stories to names

Often when I look at war memorials I think about the life stories behind the names, some of which will obviously have been lost forever as memories fade and family members die. Sometimes, however, very detailed personal records have been accurately preserved for reasons other than just family history.

Such was the case for this vessel that departed Pier 54 in New York on 1st May 1915 bound for Liverpool. Her name is recorded here on the Mercantile Marine Memorial on Tower hill …

Below the name, as is the practice on the memorial, the names of the crew who were lost and whose bodies were never recovered are listed in alphabetical order …

Some of the tablets listing the Lusitania crew.

In total 1,193 people perished when the ship was sunk by a torpedo fired by the German U Boat U 20 on 7th May 1915 off the coast of Ireland. The number of crew lost was 402.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I was intrigued by men who chose to serve under names other than the name on their birth certificate and have researched many of them using the invaluable Merseyside Maritime Museum Lusitania database. One of the reasons this exists is that, since the crew were employees of the Cunard Line, insurance, pensions and the balance of their wages had to be distributed to their families, and so research was necessary to ensure the correct beneficiaries were identified.

On the tablet below are inscribed the names of three men in this ‘served as’ category – Kyle, Land and Pardew. Edward Kyle was 44 when he died and we don’t know why he chose to serve under the name of Robins. Similarly, we don’t know why Cann Cooper Land chose the name Jones when he signed up as a ‘Second Butcher’ on 12 April 1915 (although after his death the local paper stated ‘he was always known as Charlie Jones’). We do know he was 27 years old but gave his age as 25. In August 1915 his family was given the balance of his wages.

Much more is known about Charles Pardew who served as Charles John Scott …

Charles had been engaged as a fireman in the engineering department on a wage of six pounds ten shillings a month (£6.50). In July 1915 his widow Sarah swore an affidavit (supported by a lifelong friend called Fennell) that Charles had used the alias Scott since 1894. Apparently he had once sailed from Australia in a ship named the Charles Scott and decided to adopt that as his service name. For some reason he had also claimed he was 60 when in fact he was 57. Sarah received £300 compensation from the company and in August The Liverpool & London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted her a monthly pension of one pound six shillings (£1.30).

There is someone on the memorial who shouldn’t be there at all …

We don’t know why Joseph Patrick Huston engaged as an able seaman under the name of Joseph Robb. His body was one of the first to be recovered, but for some reason the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was not aware of this, so his body was listed among the missing. He was 24 when he died and was buried in the Old Church Cemetery, Queenstown, County Cork on 10th May 1915.

The Lusitania mass burial ceremony. Joseph Huston’s body was among those recovered.

The memorial now …

I will carry on researching the Lusitania crew and will report back on any more interesting facts I come across.

You may remember that in my blog of 25th October I mentioned the London Cyclists Battalion …

A recruitment poster from 1912.

It was therefore quite a coincidence that, on 9th November this year, Theresa May laid wreath at the grave of a cyclist, John Parr, the first UK soldier to be killed in the First World War on 21 August 1914. He was 15 when he signed up in 1912 but claimed to be eighteen years and one month. His comrades nicknamed him ‘Ole Parr’, which suggests that everyone knew he was much younger than he claimed, especially since on joining he was only 5 foot 3 inches tall and weighed just 8.5 stone!

John Henry Parr’s grave at St Symphorium Military Cemetery, Mons, Belgium.

Parr was a reconnaissance cyclist in the 4th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment and died on the outskirts of Mons, Belgium. Bicycles were commonly used in the War, not only for troop transport, but also for carrying dispatches. Field telephones were also limited by the need for cables, and ‘wireless’ communications were still unreliable. So cyclists – and runners, motorbike riders, pigeons and dogs – were frequently preferred by both the Allies and the German army. There is an interesting article on the subject by Carlton Reid in Forbes magazine 

I want to end this week’s blog with a story that moved me greatly when I reported it before in my blog about the City’s Little Museums.

These three battlefield crosses can be found in the crypt museum in All Hallows-by-the-Tower and I wrote in detail about the one in the centre …

This marked the grave of 2nd Lt. G.C.S Tennant. His last letter home was found unposted on his body after his death. It reads:

Sept. 2nd 1917.

Dearest Mother,

All well I come out tonight. By the time you get this you will know I am through all right. I got your wire last night, also your three letters. Many thanks for that little book of poems. It is a great joy having it out here. There is nothing much to do all day except sleep now and then. It will soon be English leave, and that will be splendid! I got hit in the face by a small piece of shrapnel this morning, but it was a spent piece, and did not even cut me. One becomes a great fatalist out here.

God bless you, your loving Cruff.

He was killed later that night, at about 4.00 am, and is now buried at Canada Farm Cemetery. He was 19 years old.

George Christopher Serocold Tennant (1897-1917).

After his death one of his men attested:

‘He was specially loved by us men because he wasn’t like some officers who go into their dug-outs and stay there, leaving the men outside. He had us all in all day long … The men would have done more for him than for many another officer because he was so friendly with them and he knew his job. He was a fine soldier, and they knew it.’

Incidentally, there is also a lovely tribute to the 83 men commemorated on the memorial outside Christ Church Spitalfields. It includes biographical details and a map of where they lived and surrounding areas. It was published in the Spitalfields Life blog and can be accessed here.

 

A moving discovery at Tower Hill – and two more City war memorials

I was walking through the Tower Hill memorial garden last Sunday when I noticed a small cross resting on one of the allegorical figures, just above the dolphin’s head …

Here it is in close up …

How wonderful. Arthur Myers remembered by a grandchild and two great, great grandchildren. His ship, the Empire Lakeland, was sunk by a U Boat on 11 March 1943.

I also noticed when I was there that, with Remembrance Sunday approaching, wreaths and other little crosses are beginning to appear.

Many are from institutions …

… and some in respect of just one vessel …

HMT stands for His Majesty’s Transport. The Rohna was requisitioned as a troop ship in 1940 and sunk in the Mediterranean in November 1943. Most of those killed were American troops.

And so on to my next two memorials, the first being the National Submarine War Memorial on Victoria Embankment (EC4Y 0HJ). Although able to hide when submerged, once struck the vessels were often unable to rise to the surface and became effectively underwater coffins. In the First World War fifty four boats were lost and with them the lives of 138 officers and 1,225 men. At the inauguration in 1922 Rear Admiral Sinclair, the Chief of the Submarine Service, reminded those present that, during the Great War …

The number of those killed in the Submarine Service was greater in proportion to its size than any other branch of His Majesty’s fighting forces … one third of the total personnel.

In November 1959 new panels commemorating Second World war losses were unveiled by Rear Admiral B W Taylor.

Wright and Moore, writing for the 20th Century Architecture website, describe the memorial as a complex mixture of narrative and symbolism …

Sculptor: F B Hitch Architect: A H R Tenison Founder: E J Parlanti

The central figures recreate the scene set inside the submarine exaggerating it into a small, claustrophobic tunnel. The crew use charts and follow dials, the captain is braced at the centre with the periscope behind his head. Around the vessel a shallow relief depicts an array of sea creatures or mermen appearing to trap and haul the submarine in fishing nets, reminding us that the submarines were as much prey to the tempestuous elements as they were to the enemy.

On both corners are allegorical figures. Next to the list of vessels lost between 1914 and 1918, Truth holds up her mirror. Just further to the left in the picture are two of the 40 bronze wreath hooks in the form of anchors …

On the right, next to the vessels lost in the Second World War, Justice wears a blindfold and as usual holds a sword and scales …

I have written about Justice and other representations in the City of the cardinal virtues in an earlier blog which you can find here.

And now to the Grand Avenue, Central Markets, Smithfield (EC1A 9PS) and this monument commemorating men, women and children who perished both overseas and nearby …

The original memorial (above the red granite plinth) is by G Hawkings & Son and was unveiled on 22  July 1921. 212 names are listed.

Between Fame and Victory holding laurel wreaths, the cartouche at the top reads …

1914-1918 Remember with thanksgiving the true and faithful men who in these years of war went forth from this place for God and the right. The names of those who returned not again are here inscribed to be honoured evermore.

At 11:30 in the morning on 8th March 1945 the market was extremely busy, with long queues formed to buy from a consignment of rabbits that had just been delivered. Many in the queue were women and children. With an explosion that was heard all over London, a V2 rocket landed in a direct hit which also cast victims into railway tunnels beneath – 110 people died and many more were seriously injured.

The aftermath.

The monument was refurbished in 2004/5 and unveiled on 15 June 2005 by the Princess Royal and Lord Mayor Savory. The red granite plinth had been added and refers to lives lost in ‘conflict since the Great War’. On it mention is made of the women and children although the V2 event is not specifically referred to.

‘Thou hast put all things under his feet, all Sheep and Oxen’.

At the base is the coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Butchers who helped to fund the refurbishment, along with the Corporation of London and the Smithfield Market Tenants’ Association.

Incidentally, the market was also hit by bombs dropped from a Zeppelin in the First World War – you can still see the shrapnel marks nearby on the walls of St Bartholomew’s Hospital …

I have written about these and other scars of war that can be found around the City in an earlier blog: Bombs and Boundaries.

 

 

 

 

 

The Tower Hill Memorials – wars and executions

Trinity Square Gardens outside Tower Hill underground station is home to a number of memorials, one of which relates to events going back centuries.

In the south east corner and in the foreground of this picture is a circular granite sundial which has a cast iron anchor in the centre which acts as a gnomon …

The Falklands War Memorial. Designed by Gordon Newton of War Memorial Limited (2005).

On 2 April 1982, Argentine forces landed in and captured the Falklands Islands. A task force was dispatched in order to retake the territory and this was accomplished when the occupying forces surrendered on 14 June that year. Nine members of the Merchant Navy and eight members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary were killed in the conflict and their names are recorded here beneath those of their ships …

In the main photograph’s background you can see two other memorial structures. On the left are commemorated the 12,000 men of the merchant navy and fishing fleets who lost their lives in the the First World War ‘who have no grave but the sea’ …

Sculptor: William Reid Dick   Architect: Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Made of Portland stone, the walls are covered with bronze panels with the names of the dead arranged alphabetically under their ships with the name of the Master or Skipper first in each case if they were among the lost.

On visiting a few years ago it was clear than many of those unfortunate mariners were still being remembered by family descendants …

When I first looked really closely at the panels I noticed something strange in one section of the memorial, see if you do too …

At least four of the men, Moyle A.J., O’Mealie J., Kelly T.E. and Pardew C.J. served under names other than those that were registered at their birth. I am trying to research their stories and will hopefully have something to report in my next blog. There is also a ship recorded here that was actually lost in the Second World War – something also for a future blog.

Just to the north is the Second World War memorial to the further 24,000 men lost between 1939 and 1945 …

Sculptor: Charles Wheeler   Architect: Edward Maufe.

It is a sunken garden with the steps leading down to it flanked by a Mercantile Marine officer …

… and a seaman of the Merchant Service. Behind him, in his eyrie above what was once the Port of London Authority building, Father Thames points towards the sea …

Within the garden the walls are overlaid with bronze plaques on which the names of the men and their ships are inscribed in relief. At regular intervals, between the inscription panels, are allegorical figures representing the Seven Seas. Here is one of them, Neptune with his trident …

And another, a mermaid combing her hair …

One can’t write about Tower Hill without some mention of its gruesome history as a place of execution …

This memorial is located on the approximate site of public executions. Nearby, within the walls of the Tower of London, is Tower Green, where people such as Henry VIII’s unwanted Queens were disposed of more discretely. On 19 May 1536 Anne Boleyn was beheaded there, the deed carried out by a swordsman which ensured a speedy death.

Her old adversary Thomas Cromwell watched her decapitation, but was to end his days on the public gallows a mere four years later on 28 July 1540. The executioner being drunk, his end was a nasty, botched affair. On the same day Henry married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, but the marriage only lasted a few years until she too was executed at the Tower.

Records are incomplete but the known execution tally for both locations is well over 100 ranging from the first (Sir Simon Burley on 5 May 1388) to the last (three Gordon rioters hanged on 11 July 1780). Two of the Jacobite ‘Rebel Lords’ beheaded for high treason have a special plaque …

Site of the ancient scaffold where the Earl of Kilmarnock and Lord Balmerino suffered 18th August 1746.

In this 1746 etching of their execution, the scaffold on the left is surrounded by horse and foot guards, holding back the throng of spectators, who also watch from tiers erected for the purpose. The executioner is raising the axe above his head …

Copyright Trustees of the British Museum.

 

War Memorials in the City

The aftermath of the First World War saw tens of thousands of memorials erected across the country. This reflected not only the huge impact on individual communities but also the official policy of not repatriating the dead: the memorials provided the main focus of the grief felt at the loss of three quarters of a million British lives.

As we approach the centenary of the end of the First World War, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look at some of the many City memorials that commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice serving King and Country. I am particularly fascinated by the different approaches taken by sculptors and the allegories they chose to use.

Firstly, I revisited St Michael Cornhill and this sculpture by Richard Reginald Goulden. The memorial commemorates 2,130 men from three parishes  who served in the War of whom about 170 died ‘for the freedom of the world’ …

Allegorical figures surround the base as St Michael with his flaming sword stands steadfastly above …

On the left, the quarreling beasts typify war, but are ‘sliding slowly but surely from their previously paramount position. Life, in the shape of young children, rises with increasing confidence under the protection of the champion of right’.

And now to Holborn and this work by Albert Toft. Unveiled by the Lord Mayor in 1922, the inscriptions read …

To the glorious memory of the 22,000 Royal Fusiliers who fell in the Great War 1914-1919 (and added later) To the Royal Fusiliers who fell in the World war 1939-1945 and those fusiliers killed in subsequent campaigns.

 

Toft’s soldier stands confidently as he surveys the terrain, his foot resting on a rock, his rifle bayoneted, his left hand clenched in determination. At the boundary of the City, he looks defiantly towards Westminster. The general consensus on the internet is that the model for the sculpture was a Sergeant Cox, who served throughout the First World War.

Behind him is the magnificent, red terracotta, Gothic-style building by J.W. Waterhouse, which once housed the headquarters of the Prudential Insurance Company. Walk through the entrance arch to the courtyard and you will see the work of a sculptor who has chosen to illustrate war in a very different fashion. The memorial carries the names of the 786 Prudential employees who lost their lives …

The sculptor was F.V. Blundstone and the work was inaugurated on 2 March 1922. All Prudential employees had been offered ‘the opportunity of taking a personal share in the tribute by subscribing to the cost of the memorial’ (suggested donations were between one and five shillings).

The main group represents a soldier sustained in his death agony by two angels. He is lying amidst war detritus with his right arm resting on the wheel of some wrecked artillery piece. His careworn face contrasts with that of the sombre, beautiful girls with their uplifted wings. I find it incredibly moving.

I have written about angels in the City before and they are usually asexual, but these are clearly female.

At the four corners of the pedestal stand four more female figures.

One holds a field gun and represents the army …

One holds a boat representing the navy …

At the back is a figure holding a shell representing National Service …

The fourth lady holds a bi-plane representing the air force …

The work is tucked away in the building’s courtyard, Waterhouse Square (EC1N 2SW), and I am sure that most of the thousands of people who walk along Holborn every day have no idea it is there.

And finally, I looked again at the War Memorial to London Troops outside the Royal Exchange …

At the bottom of the list of battalions, two in particular caught my eye …

I am going to do further research on the Artists Rifles and the London Cyclists and hopefully include the results in a later blog.

As luck would have it, I visited the Imperial War Museum last week and came across a postcard of this splendid recruitment poster from 1912. It is poignant to look at this picture with its pretty village setting and then think of the industrial age war and slaughter that was soon to follow …

I will continue writing about war memorials for the next few weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

The Royal Exchange

Last week I wrote about the talented Sir Thomas Gresham, the part he played in founding the Royal Exchange and how his generosity is still commemorated on the building itself.

This week I am taking a look at other aspects of the structure starting with the magnificent Portland stone pediment which you can’t miss if you look up as you cross the road at Bank junction. As is often the case, I am indebted to Dr Philip Ward-Jackson and his book Public Sculpture of the City of London for some of the descriptions …

The Exchange itself was designed by William Tite. The pediment sculpture is by Richard Westmacott Junior and deploys seventeen figures.

The inscription on the base on which the figure of commerce stands is from Psalm 24.1., a text chosen by Prince Albert. He laid the foundation stone in 1842.

Commerce holds in her left hand a ‘charter of exchange’ and in her right a rudder. There is also a ship’s prow, a beehive and a cornucopia.

Looking to the left …

… there are three City merchants in the civic robes of Lord Mayor, Alderman and Common Councilman. Beyond these are a Hindu and a Muslim. A young Greek carrying a vase strides towards them whilst looking over his shoulder towards the outermost group. These are an Armenian (occupied with a scroll) and a Turk (‘busy with his daily accounts’). The extreme angle is filled with an anchor and other nautical instruments.

Looking to the right …

… two British merchants are being shown fabric by a Persian. The next group consists of a Chinese merchant, a kneeling African and a Levantine sailor. Beyond these is a British sailor cording a bale of merchandise. The outermost figure, kneeling amongst jars, packages etc, is a supercargo, or shipboard sales manager.

Interestingly, the Exchange was built at the time of the Chinese ‘Opium Wars’, a period which saw the collapse of the Chinese economy. In China today the period 1839 to 1939 is referred to as The Century of Humiliation (which some commentators believe still has an important influence on Chinese attitudes to the West in the 21st century).

In the foreground stands London Troops War Memorial. Above you can see part of the Latin inscription stating that the Exchange was founded in the thirteenth year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and restored in the eighth of Queen Victoria (1844) …

The memorial architect was Sir Aston Webb, the bronzes are by Alfred Drury and the stone carver was William Frith.

On the column is listed all the London regiments that served in the First and Second World Wars and on either side two soldiers stand at ease, one representing the Royal Fusiliers and the other the Royal Field Artillery.

On the south side of the Exchange in Cornhill is this elegant clock …

Britannia and Neptune hold a shield that contains an image of Gresham’s original Royal Exchange. In the distance, peeping up below, is the latest addition to the City skyline, ‘The Scalpel’ in Lime Street.

The inside of the Exchange is now a much used open space where today’s City folk meet once more to gossip, dine, drink coffee and do deals just as Gresham originally intended almost 450 years ago …

 Image: ‘Say I do’ Islington

When visiting the Exchange I usually use the main West door but, whilst researching this blog, I went into the East foyer and was really surprised to come across this remarkable, formidable bust of Abraham Lincoln …

Carver: Andrew O’Connor (1928).

The bust is carved from stone quarried in the vicinity of Lincoln’s birthplace. It was presented to the City by the Lincoln Presentation Committee and was unveiled by the Lord Mayor on 12 February 1930.

Finally, behind the posh retail outlets that nestle near the walls of the Exchange, lie an extraordinary set of murals. This one commemorates the loss of the second Royal exchange to fire in 1838 …

Painting by Stanhope Forbes (1899).

 

To view them you have to climb to the mezzanine floor and look over the balcony. They date from 1892 and are by artists including Sir Frederick Leighton, Sir Frank Brangwyn and Stanhope Forbes.

Amazingly, plans for the building in 2016 would have meant bisecting them in order to extend the retail space. Fierce criticism meant the plans were shelved but you can see what they would have meant if you look at the Spitalfields Life website from August 2016. The site also has some great pictures of all the murals – they are stunning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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