The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

War memorials

London: Firefighters Memorial

Architect: John W. Mills (Sculptor), Meridian Foundry and Maycast (Founders), 1990-1
Location: Carter Lane Gardens, London

The sculpture entitled ‘ BLITZ ‘ is the national memorial to the firefighters who lost their lives during the Second World War, who Winston Churchill referred to as “the heroes with grimy faces “. The small bronze that became the maquette for the memorial was commission in 1984 by C.T. Demarne O.B.E. ex Chief Officer of the West Ham Fire brigade, as a personal memorial to his colleagues who died during that awful war. This is now housed in the Hall of Remembrance at the London Fire brigade Headquarters, Lambeth. The unveiling of this work brought the realisation that there should be a larger memorial, on a prominent site.

The Firefighters Memorial Charitable Trust was established in 1990 by founder members of the then City of London Guild of Firefighters. It was to enable the commissioning and the erection of a National Memorial to the men and women of the United Kingdom Fire Service, who had made the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of the realm in World War II. On the 4 May 1991 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother unveiled the Memorial Statue following a service in St Paul’s. On its octagonal bronze base the names of some 997 men and women who lost their lives during the conflict. The sculpture features two firemen ‘working a branch’, with their legs spread to take the strain of the hose. A sub-officer directs others to assist. There are clues to the identity of this figure scattered among the debris at the figures’ feet: the letters CTD for C.T. Dermarne. At the unveiling, his colleagues from the fire service claimed that there was no need for such clues. One who was interviewed by the Telegraph stated: “You can tell it’s Cyril by the way he’s standing…he always waved his arms about like that when he was ordering us about”

Jon Wright & Joanna Moore

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