Merchant Seamen’s Memorial, Trinity Square

Just north of the Tower and in front of Trinity House stands the Mercantile Marine Memorial, which was built to commemorate the merchant seamen killed in the Great War.

It is a vaulted passage way with three bays, and with Doric columns.The dead are listed under the names of their ships on bronze plaques on the walls. It was designed by Edwin Lutyens, with the sculpture by William Reid Dick. Reid Dick’s other work includes the boy and goose on Lutyens’ headquarters for the Midland Bank, now The Ned, on Cheapside. Lutyens was the leading architect of British commemorations of the dead. His best-known works in this field are the Cenotaph in Whitehall, and the Thiepval Memorial on the Somme.

He was highly influenced by classicism, which helps give his memorials the required gravity, but he was also affected by modernism. The Cenotaph, in particular, is an almost abstract design. Like the Cenotaph, this memorial is moving in its dignity and simplicity.

The Second World War Extension, which is in the form of a sunken garden, was designed by Sir Edward Maufe, with sculpture by Charles Wheeler. Maufe was the leading architect for war grave memorials after 1945. Wheeler’s other work includes the nudes on the front of the Bank of England. Here his figures of the Seven Seas around the garden, and two sailors at the entrance are in a similar monumental style, but with rougher carving.

The missing include Kenneth Lewis, aged 14, his brother Raymond, 15, who are thought to have forged a letter from their father in order to join up. Their ship, the SS Fiscus, was sunk in October 1940 by a U-boat.

There are 12,000 names on the monument from the First World War and 24,000 from the Second.

Ian McDiarmid is a qualified City of London Tour Guide who delivers guided walks and private tours in London. View all of Ian’s walking tours.


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