Friday, 11 April 2014

Sermon Lane EC4

The National Firefighters' Memorial had something of a journey before it reached its final resting place at the top of the grand walkway from Tate Modern to St Pauls.
It started life in 1990 as a monument to the firefighters of London who lost their lives in the Blitz (the 'heroes with grimy faces', in Churchill's memorable phrase), and was located in Old Change Court. Five years later, construction of the monster New Change building meant it was displaced to Carter Lane Gardens. The original idea was to return it to the new building but that never happened. Instead, it was moved south to its current position.
In the process, this rolling stone gathered a surprising amount of moss. The British Fire Service pressed for it to be rededicated to the memory of all firefighters that have lost their lives in the course of duty, a change that required so many more names to be added that a new, much taller plinth was needed.
Three Canadian firefighters who died on active service in the Blitz also came aboard, and the Equal Opportunities Commission wanted acknowledgement of the women auxiliaries who died also commemorated.
The original idea came from a decorated wartime fireman, Cyril Demarne, who just happened to be the father-in-law of sculptor John W. Mills. Mills took up the idea and used photos supplied by Demarne to create the composition of three firefighters hosing down a blaze. Two of them are 'working a branch', holding the hose in the correct official way to keep it under control. A sub-officer, Demarne himself, calls for assistance.
On the podium, the panels commemorating the women auxiliaries show an incident recorder and a despatch rider.

1 comment:

Hels said...

The free standing men and especially the low relief panels of women have a very late 1920s feel about them. I am thinking of all those beautiful Deco memorials created for soldiers who had died a decade earlier in 1914-18.

Perhaps even in 1990, WW1 remained the model for memorialising young men tragically lost in service.