Sunday, 14 November 2010

No grave but the sea

I stood this Sunday morning in a small corner of London surrounded by twenty four thousand people. 

Nobody spoke. Rain fell steadily. Ink ran on sodden order of service leaflets.

The twenty four thousand souls were present  - literally - in name only. Their names solemnly studded the metal panels surrounding the Merchant Navy's Tower Hill World War II memorial.

Ship after ship, fishing boat after fishing boat, the torpedoed and sunken vessels on which these men and women served were scrolled around the walls in solemn alphabetical order.

Engraved on the Memorial's frontage, "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."

Three names stood embossed beneath the 'Andalucia Star', sunk by a German submarine in October 1942.
'Green, Lily A.
Harcourt R.
Nylander W.'
I've recalled their story in previous postings so my first ever visit to the memorial was overdue. 

Nearly twenty years ago, I visited the Arlington National Cemetary in Washington. I was  astonished. More than 300,000 people who lost their lives in America's wars are buried beneath its forest of small white headstones.

After that trip, I couldn't conceive how a single physical structure could symbolise the enormous loss and sacrifice and loss of life involved in war. 

Today, I stood corrected.
Trinity Square's sombre yet gracefully sculpted garden, aptly sited close to the Thames, stands as a precious memorial to the men and women who lost their lives trying to ensure vital food supplies reached war-ravaged Britain.

Currently serving Navy and merchant marine personnel gave a smart salute. Comrades, sons and daughters and grandchildren offered heartfelt prayers. This was a fitting 21st Century tribute to those lost souls with no grave but the sea. 

Paul Coleman, London, November 2010.

Photos: Paul Coleman


Anonymous said...

Thank you
Jack Collins

Anonymous said...

"I stood this Sunday morning in a small corner of London surrounded by twenty four thousand people."

In a small corner? Like a widdle mouse? Aww.. :)!