The Great War

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Different types of war memorials: Railway war memorials, Post Office Rifles and more!

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Memorials for the fallen come in many shapes and sizes. 

This is mainly due to there not being any rules about what form a war memorial should take but also because different people and communities want to remember and commemorate in different ways. 

At the time of the First World War, the Royal Mail was part of the General Post Office (GPO).

The GPO released over 75,000 employees to fight in the Great War, including 12,000 men who fought with its own regiment, the Post Office Rifles. Their bravery, tenacity and character earned the regiment high praise and a prestigious place in British military history.

At least four of employees are known to have been Victoria Cross recipients, for valour “in the face of the enemy”: Sgt Alfred Knight, Sgt Albert Gill, Major Henry Kelly, and Sgt John Hogan.

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The GPO also became one of the largest employers of women at the time, as tens of thousands were recruited to help keep the organisation running. 

There are many memorials which pay tribute to fallen postal workers located at Post Offices across the UK and abroad.

Members of railway staff have always responded to the call of their country in times of war, and sadly many members of railway staff died on active service.

As a result Britain’s railway companies have honoured their fallen staff with a large number of war memorials.

In the First World War somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 railwaymen died, and they are honoured in a series of war memorials.

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Most of the companies that existed at that time created memorials for their staff, varying from the grand Lutyens memorials of the Midland Railway in Derby and the North Eastern Railway in York to a simple plaque in Salehurst church commemorating the single member of the staff of the Kent & East Sussex Railway who was killed in the Battle of Loos in 1915.

In addition to these there were many local memorials paid for by local staff, and some railways, noticeably the Great Western, created Rolls of Honour, recording all their staff who fell in the war, which were placed in major stations around the system.

Following the First World War, ZSL Council decided to place a permanent war memorial at London Zoo in memory of the members of staff who had died in the war.

The memorial, with a bronze tablet listing the names of those killed, was unveiled in 1919. Following the Second World War a second bronze memorial tablet was added.

The design chosen for the memorial was an adaptation of the mediaeval French Lanterne des Morts (Lantern of the Dead) at La Souterraine in the Creuse valley. 

In May 1917, a committee was formed to raise the money required to erect a War Memorial for Old Harrovians who were dying in the Great War.

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On 6 October 1921, a foundation stone was laid by Old Harrovian Randall Davidson (Small Houses and Moretons 1862 3), then Archbishop of Canterbury. 

Located at the heart of the School, next to Speech Room and on the High Street, the War Memorial Building remains central to our Remembrance Day activities.

To find out more about war memorials where you live, visit the War Memorial Trust

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The Great War

The Great War - Life through a Child's Eye.

More From The Great War