The other day I had a look round Trinity Square Gardens, a little park in front of the headquarters of Trinity House. Surrounded by the bustle of tourists visiting the nearby Tower of London, the garden is by contrast a very sombre space.
It contains the Tower Hill Memorial to sailors in Britain’s merchant navy who have lost their lives at war. Burnished bronze plaques extend along the walls of the memorial containing the names of the dead.
The World War Two section contains the moving inscription, “The twenty four thousand of the merchant navy and fishing fleets whose names are honoured on the walls of this garden gave their lives for their country and have no grave but the sea.”
This memorial brings home the individual stories as well as the stark statistical horror. Scattered across the neat lawn, almost like fallen autumn leaves, are individual marks of remembrance.
Standing to one side is a more modest plinth remembering merchant seafarers killed in the Falklands conflict. The loss of the Sir Galahad is fairly well-known, but there’s also a plaque here to the Atlantic Conveyor, a container ship built by Swan Hunter on the river Tyne in 1970.
In 1982 she was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence for transport duties in the Falklands, and on 25 May, she was hit by two Argentinian Exocet missiles. Twelve men were killed, nine from the merchant navy.
My visit was prompted by research into one of our ship models. I’m out of space today, so I’ll tell you more in a later post…