The square at the centre of the walled City of Derry, the point at which the four main streets from the four original city gates converge, is called the Diamond and is the former location of various civic buildings and a market. In fact, three former town halls were located here. In 1904 a fire in Austin’s Department store on the Diamond (the building behind the war Memorial in picture one attached) also destroyed the town hall from which point the Diamond then hosted a small garden.
Today on the centre of the Diamond is the City’s World War I Memorial – to 756 citizens killed in the Great War and to 4,000 men and women who volunteered for service. While 756 names are recorded on the Memorial it is now thought that around 1150 people actually lost their lives. Interestingly, almost half of those who lost their life in The Great War were from a Nationalist (Catholic) background – many Catholic’s answered Britain’s call for assistance in WWI. The Memorial now also commemorates those lost in WWII.
Contrary to urban myth, the War Memorial statues are not rejects from a trial run for a set of statues in Sheffield. The Memorial, paid for by public subscription, was erected in 1927 and was designed by siblings Sydney and Vernon March. The Memorial is of bronze and Portland stone and stands almost forty feet high (14mtrs) and is twenty-seven feet wide (9mtrs).
The central column features a winged Victory statue (representing the Air-Force) holding high a laurel wreath and has inscribed on it, on brass plaques on each corner, in raised letters the names of the fallen. On pedestals on either side of the Memorial column are two smaller bronze monuments, a soldier representing the Army and a sailor representing the Navy.
Working models of the figures on the Monument can be seen in St Columb’s Cathedral – though there are subtle differences between the models and the final figures – e.g. on the model the sailor is wearing shoes while on the Memorial he is barefoot.
This entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on many trips to Londonderry/Derry. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Austins – The World’s Oldest Department Store – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – The City on the Foyle.