Mercantile Marine First World War Memorial, Tower Hill

Mercantile Marine First World War Memorial-2

During World War I, the Merchant Navy supplied the Royal Navy, including troop transportation, supply delivery, and shipping to and from factories.  They also had to continue their standard mission of supplying food and goods to the country, conduct routine shipping, and continue the fishing fleets.  Although Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens, who designed the memorial, initially planned it as an arch on the Thames River in order it could be viewed by ship vessels, it was constructed on Tower Hill, Trinity Square.

Historic England reported losses to civilian shipping were high from the beginning of the war, but in 1917 after the German government utilized submarine warfare, the losses increased.  Some 3,305 Merchant ships were sunk, at a loss of 17,000 lives by persons who were not fighting in the war itself.

Due to the serious illness of King George V, the Queen accompanied by Princess Mary, unveiled the memorial–her voice being “transmitted over the wireless” (The Guardian, Dec 13, 1928, p. 11).   The sculpture was completed by Sir William Reid-Dick.Mercantile Marine First World War Memorial

The monument was designed in the form of a temple with three bays, with bronze plaques bearing the names of the dead. The inscription reads:

1914-1918

TO THE GLORY OF GOD

AND TO THE HONOUR OF

TWELVE THOUSAND

OF THE MERCHANT NAVY

AND FISHING FLEETS

WHO HAVE NO GRAVE BUT THE SEA

The Guardian also carried an item on page 10 about the ceremony, attended by “more than the usual proportion of…elderly men” who kept their heads uncovered in the cold and drizzling rain.  The_Guardian_Thu__Dec_13__1928_

A memorial that commemorates the men who went on about the business of their country at great sacrifice, and then stood in a drizzling cold rain in December to honour not only their fellow countrymen, but their respect for the Queen while the King was very ill: Quite a different picture than of King George IV wouldn’t you say?

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7 Responses to Mercantile Marine First World War Memorial, Tower Hill

  1. peggyjoan42 says:

    Definitely a very different picture – than that of King George IV. Thanks for the history lesson – always love learning new things. Hope my brain can retain all the new things I am learning. Ha

    Like

    • Suzassippi says:

      I definitely appreciate your kind comments and follow, Peggy. I believe one of the best parts about getting older is realizing how much there is to learn and enjoying it for the sake of learning. It helps me to understand more of now when I understand what came before.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Betty says:

    Apparently, those elderly men had very strong convictions and wanted to honor the memory for those whom the memorial was built. How moving! I look forward to looking through my old slides of my time in London. I will have to search your posts to see if you wrote about something I captured in a photo long ago. Your posts will add historical insight to my memories. Thank you!

    Like

  3. Sheryl says:

    Whew – When I read this post I was amazed that 3,305 merchant ships were sunk during the war. I had no idea that many sank.

    Like

    • Suzassippi says:

      I think it is possible that we do not know the true toll of ‘civilian casualties’ that war has taken. Nonetheless, I find it admirable that a memorial was erected for those men whose tombs were at sea.

      Like

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