Since the earliest days of armed conflict, armies, navies, and air forces have been called on to defend the people or impose the will of leaders. Britain has a long and proud military tradition dating back to the creation of the Royal Navy in 1546 and the British Army in 1660. Understandably, many monuments around the city are dedicated to the armed services and individuals important to the nation’s military institutions. Built for more than any one conflict, these tributes throughout London recognize the bravery and service of extraordinary individuals. If you have any favorite military monuments in the city you wish to share with us, you can include them in the comments.
Royal Artillery Memorial
Artillery was a key weapon in the First World War, and the Royal Artillery Memorial at the corner of Hyde Park was constructed to remember the members of the Royal Regiment of Artillery who fought for Britain. Charles Sargeant Jagger and Lionel Pearson designed the memorial that was installed in 1925 and designated a Grade I listed building in 1970.
Animals in War
Located near Hyde Park, the Animals in War Memorial commemorates all the animals, from horses to carrier pigeons and everything in between, that were part of the war effort. Installed in 2004 on the 90th anniversary of WWI, it was based on the book Animals in War by Jilly Cooper. There are bronze statues of two mules following a horse and dog through a gap in the stone, and the stone itself further depicts elephants, birds, camels, rams, goats, and more.
Machine Gun Corps Memorial
The Machine Gun Corps Memorial, also known as The Boy David, is dedicated to the members of the corps who had fallen during World War I. It earns its nickname from the Scripture posted on it from 1 Samuel 18:7 which reads “Saul has slain his thousands/but David his tens of thousands”. Francis Derwent Wood designed the memorial that was installed in 1925 and became a Grade II listed building in 1970.
Perhaps the most striking feature in Trafalgar Square (apart from the National Gallery), Nelson’s Column commemorates the efforts of Admiral Horatio Nelson, who lost his life against Napoleon’s Navy in the Battle of Trafalgar. The column, with the statue of Nelson at the top, was completed in 1843, and the Barbery lions at its base were added in 1867.
Found outside of the Royal Exchange, the London Troops War Memorial was erected in 1920 originally for the soldiers from the city who died in World War I. It bears the coat of arms for London in addition to the inscriptions and is flanked on either side by a soldier representing the Royal Fusiliers and another representing the Royal Field Artillery. An additional dedication passage was added following World War II, and the monument became Grade II listed in 1972 and Grade II* in 2016 after the centennial of the Battle of the Somme.
Royal Fusiliers Memorial
The Royal Fusiliers, also known as the City of London Regiment, has been one of the finest units in the British Army since it was founded in 1685. The statue located in High Holborn is dedicated to members of the company killed in action since World War I and in subsequent conflicts. Its location denotes the ancient entrance to the city, and it was erected in 1923.
National Firefighters Memorial
While many military monuments in London focus on those who fought in the wars, one special monument commemorates those who served back home. The National Firefighters Memorial was erected in 1991 and is dedicated to firefighters who helped to put out the flames caused by German bombs during the Blitz. Every year, a memorial service is held at the monument to remember those who gave their lives to save London’s citizens.
National Submariners Memorial
Also known as the National Submarine War Memorial, this monument on Victoria Embankment memorializes the sailors of the Royal Navy Submarine Service, which began in 1914. It was unveiled in 1922 to remember the 54 submarines that were sunk and more than 1,300 submariners killed during WWI, with more plaques added for those lost in World War II. It became a Grade II listed building in 1972 and was upgraded to Grade II* in 2017.
The Wellington Monument is dedicated to Arthur Wellesley, the First Duke of Wellington, who achieved substantial victories against Spain and France in the Peninsula War and the Napoleonic Wars. His military career turned him into a national hero and perhaps the most well-known British Army officer in history. The monument is a bronze statue depicting Achilles, though the head is based on that of the Duke himself. It was made from the bronze cannons captured by Wellington’s forces, and British women contributed £10,000 to its installation in 1822.
St. Paul’s Cathedral Memorials
Perhaps befitting one of London’s largest churches, St. Paul’s Cathedral has a number of monuments dedicated to the men and women of the armed forces. Many are dedicated to some of the country’s greatest national heroes, including Admiral Nelson, Florence Nightengale, and Major General Sir Arthur Wellesley Torrens. The Cathedral even includes monuments to more recent conflicts, such as the Gulf War. It can be a great way to remember all those who served by locating the various cenotaphs throughout St. Paul’s.
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