War is a terrible business. For hundreds of years, they have required the utmost sacrifice from the United Kingdom’s men and women to protect freedom and the lives of innocent civilians. It is with that in mind that each conflict has seen a monument erected to those who served and those who fell. As the nation’s capital, London has more than its fair share of such memorials dedicated to different conflicts and groups that served in them. We’ve narrowed down a list of ten we think are worth your time to visit and if you think we left out any that should be recognized, let us know in the comments.
London Troops War Memorial
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.
The Special Operations executive was Britain’s premier espionage organization during World War II, and its monument sits on Lambeth palace road not too far from the headquarters of its successor organization, MI6. The monument is dedicated to all members of the SOE, but at the top of its concrete pedestal, it features a bronze bust of Violet Szabo, whose list of accomplishments can’t be included here due to the sheer volume, but sacrificed her life to ensure the Nazis would be defeated.
New Zealand War Memorial
Also known by its official name, “Southern Stand”, the New Zealand War Memorial is dedicated to all NC soldiers who fought in both world wars. The memorial is located on a grassy slope in Hyde Park and is comprised of sixteen “standards” of cross-shaped girders, each with a symbol representing New Zealand. Each girder is angled southward to represent Maori warriors doing a haka, a cricket bat in a defensive position, or the barrel of a shouldered gun.
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. The monument is a bronze statue depicting Achilles, though the head is based on that of the Duke himself. It was made from 33 tonnes of bronze cannons captured by Wellington’s forces, and British women contributed £10,000 to its installation in 1822.
Animals in War Memorial
Also 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.
Burma Railway Memorial
If you’ve ever seen the movie Bridge on the River Kwai, the Burma Railway Memorial is dedicated to all the POWs who were forced to build the railway by their Japanese captors during World War II. Found near the Mornington Crescent Tube Station entrance, the memorial is a simple granite slab with crossed railroad ties with a plaque that depicts an emaciated POW and was drawn by Ronald Searle, who himself was made to work on the railway.
Battle of Britain Monument
The Battle of Britain Monument is dedicated to one of the most harrowing moments in the city’s history as the RAF engaged the Luftwaffe in battle over the skies of London and elsewhere in the United Kingdom. The bronze and granite artwork in Westminster depicts life-sized pilots scrambling for their aircraft in the center flanked by bronze murals depicting other pilots and scenes of the battle. On the reverse side are plaques featuring the names of 2,936 pilots and crew from 14 countries who took part in the battle on the Allied side.
Memorial to the Women of WWII
So often we think about the men that fought in WWII, we forget to mention the incredible contributions of British women during this time. The bronze memorial was dedicated by none other than Queen Elizabeth II (herself a British Army mechanic during the war) to the seven million service and civilian women who contributed to the Allied victory. It depicts the various uniforms, work clothes, and attire of women worn during the war, hanging on pegs after their work was done.
Royal Tank Regiment Memorial
Comet tanks provided a major amount of support and firepower to the British Army during WWII, and the Royal Tank Regiment Memorial is a monument to the service of the men who crewed them. The memorial depicts five statues representing the typical crew of a Comet. The monument was also unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II.
Perhaps the greatest war memorial in the city, the Cenotaph, began as a temporary structure after WWI in 1919 that was eventually replaced with the stone monument in Whitehall in 1920. It is a Portland stone pylon with diminishing tiers, topped by an empty stone tomb that itself is crowned with a laurel wreath. Flags on either side represent the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force, Merchant Navy, and more. It is a focal point for remembrance services where wreaths are laid to commemorate the dead and inspired several similar monuments around the world.