In Memoriam

In 2008 when insurance broker Willis moved out of Ten Trinity Square into their current building, a sleek glass-clad high-rise next to the Lloyd’s building, it nearly left something behind.

The architects and senior management saw no place for the firm’s war memorial in their minimalist interiors. Fortunately my cousin said “over my dead body” and prevailed. Rather shocking that a company founded in 1828 should not be proud to honour their staff who gave their lives in two World Wars. The last name of those killed in WWI is Raymond Willis. My cousin’s godfather was another Raymond Willis, named in his memory. Here is the memorial in its new home.

Willis memorial, January 2018, by RCS.

London mainline stations have been hugely improved over the past fifty years. The first was Euston, in the 1960s, where controversially and needlessly the Euston Arch was demolished. But you can’t keep a good arch down and now there are plans to reconstruct it as part of the re-development of the station for HS2.

Euston Arch.

The most recent station to be re-built is London Bridge which is almost finished. It is now different to other London stations in that, like airports, you pass through the ticket barriers onto a concourse where you can eat, drink and shop while waiting for your train. Inevitably, perhaps unnecessarily, some good features were lost like the South Eastern Railway Offices of 1893.

South Eastern Railway Offices, now demolished.

However, and now we are getting to the point having been diverted along some branch lines, here is something that commendably has been retained.

War memorial, London Bridge Station, January 2018.

The inscription at the top reads:

IN HONOUR OF FIVE THOUSAND SIX/ HUNDRED AND THIRTY FIVE MEMBERS OF/ THE STAFF OF THE LONDON BRIGHTON/ AND SOUTH COAST RAILWAY Co. WHO/ JOINED THE FORCES OF THE CROWN/ DURING THE WAR OF 1914-1918 AND OF/ WHOM THOSE WHOSE NAMES APPEAR/ BELOW GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR VICTORY/ IN THAT GREAT STRUGGLE TO SECURE/ THE LIBERTY OF THE WORLD./ “THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVERMORE”

Underneath are the names of 526 men who died. The inscription at the bottom reads:

AND TO THE MEMORY OF 626 MEN OF THE SOUTHERN RAILWAY WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE 1939-1945 WAR

 

5 thoughts on “In Memoriam”

  1. By chance I paused at the war memorial at Victoria Station one morning last week. The inscription and names appear to be identical to the London Bridge memorial, reflecting I assume the original ownership of both stations by the London Brighton & South Coast Railway Company and then Southern Railway. It too was in excellent condition which I thought reflected well on the station manager and staff.

    As we approach the centenary of the end of the First World War it is good to be reminded of these and so many memorials around London. Another magnificent example is at the main entrance to Waterloo Station.

  2. Interesting that in the Willis Memorial the only name preceded with a christian name (rather than initials) is Raymond Willis.

  3. Having read the inscription a few times to be sure, it seems remarkable that of the 5,635 men who fought in WW1, 526 died and in WW11 626 died. Most memorials in our villages and towns show far fewer dying in WW11. Had the number of employees of the relevant railways grown very substantially or were railwaymen used in far more dangerous roles in WW11? Perhaps the General could elucidate.

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