Becoming rapidly forgotten

Sunday, 3 August 2014

This weekend marks the centenary of the outbreak of World War 1, and events of remembrance are being held, nationwide.  These usually are occasions heavily imprinted with the message Lest we forget.

About twenty varied war memorials were erected, after World War 1, in the Forest Gate area.  As far as is possible to tell, about half of them have subsequently been lost or destroyed, as the following makes clear. The passage of time and changing religious affiliations account for most of the local losses.

West Ham borough suffered  2,035 civilian and military deaths during the World War 1, the exact number of the Forest Gate death toll is not known.
The local memorials were originally located in:

Local churches/synagogue

All Saints Church, Romford/Hampton Road junction. The church, has hosted two tablets, set on either side of main entrance. They list the 428 members of the congregation who served in WW1. There is also, apparently, a plaque to the right of the alter, near the small chapel, which reads: To the greater glory of God, the chancel screen as erected by the congregation to the undying memory of the men of this church who gave their lives for king and country. There were 58 names on the screen  (whereabouts unknown), including  2nd Lt George Drewry. He was born in 1894 at 58 Claremont Road, and won his VC for his actions in the Battle of Gallipoli, in 1915.  He was killed, accidentally, three years later. The church also displayed a 2' x 2' tablet, in honour of Drewry.

Emmanuel Church, Romford Road.There is a bronze plaque, unveiled in 1922 (see photo) with the names of around 49 local servicemen/parishioners  killed during World War1.  The inscription reads: To the glory of God and in everlasting memory of the men from Emmanuel Parish who laid down their lives for king and country in the Great War 1914 -1918. It was dedicated on 5 Jan 1922 by the Bishop of Barking. The church also houses  a wooden board, unveiled in 1956, with the names of 36 local service personnel and civilians killed in World War 11.

Plaque to fallen World War 1 parishioners,
Emmanuel church, Romford Road

The nearby St Peter's Upton Cross church was demolished in 1972, and its war memorials - one for each of the 2 world wars were moved to its new "parent" church, Emmanuel. Although the Second World War plaque remains in its new home, the First World War monument - with 15 names on it -seems to have become "lost"
St Edmunds Church, Katharine Road. At one time hosted a screen and a plaque. The plaque reads: This screen is dedicated in memory of the men in this congregation who gave their lives 1914 - 1918. 66 names are listed.  The screen may now be lost, as the plaque is mounted on an outside wall of the church.

St James Church , Forest Lane. There was a memorial screen with the 148 names of the parishioners who perished in the First World War, and a chapel, in the church,  with window dedicated to the fallen. These  were unveiled on 13 November 1921 by Lt Gen Sir Francis Lloyd.  The church was demolished in 1964 (see photo)and it appears that nothing from the memorial and window was saved.

Former St James' church, Forest Lane.
Former memorials assumed lost/destroyed
St Marks, Lorne Road hosts a parishioners' plaque, which was originally erected on the previous church (see photo) and moved when that was demolished, in 1985. The inscription reads In memory of those fallen in the war 1914 -1918 from this parish, and lists 44 names. The church also features a  memorial window to the First World War fallen. It is in three sections; one depicting Christ crucified with two soldiers at his feet; to the left, a depiction of Mary;  and to the right, one of  St George. It was designed by Herbert Hendrie and unveiled by the Rev James Elphick in 1920.  It, too, was moved to the new church when the old one was demolished.
The previous St Mark's church, Lorne Road.
Its memorials now housed in post 1985 church
St Saviours Church, Macdonald Road. The church was demolished in 1974. It had a roll of honour for the 134 parishioners who were lost in World War 1, with the inscription: To the glory of God and in undying memory of the following me from this church who died in the service of their country in the great war 1914 - 1918. Their names live for evermore Unfortunately not, however, as the memorial plaque has been subsequently lost. There was an associated Book of Remembrance in the church, listing the names.  Its whereabouts is also unknown, as are a similar plaque and Remembrance Book to the World War 11 dead.

St Saviour's Church, Macdonald Road, under
the hammer. Memorials missing, assumed destroyed
West Ham Synagogue, Earlham Grove. A stone memorial (pictured) featured the 13 names of the congregation who perished in World War 1.  The inscription read: 1914 - 1919, West Ham Synagogue. For God King and Country (13 names). Surely England deserves that we, her Jewish children, should gladly live and die for her. Erected to the memory of members/sons of members and past scholars of the school who made the supreme sacrifice in the great war (see photo).

World War 1 memorial, assumed
destroyed, from former West
Ham Synagogue, Earlham Grove
A similar plaque with the World War 11 fallen was also erected. The Imperial War Museum believe that these memorials were destroyed when the synagogue was demolished, in 2005.

Woodgrange Baptist Church, Romford Road. The church holds a memorial tablet, which reads: Lest we forget.  To the memory of the following men connected with this church who laid down their lives in the great war 1914 - 1918. (27 names) Death is swallowed up in victory The tablet was placed in storage during redevelopment and part of the top and base were chipped.

The Woodgrange Methodist Church on Woodgrange Road hosted a plaque of the 19 members of its congregation who were killed in action during the First World War, but this was, ironically, destroyed when the church, itself,  was hit by an incendiary bomb on 3 December 1940 (see photo).

Woodgrange Methodist church,
Woodgrange Road, after bombing
on 3 December 1940.
WW1 memorial destroyed in WW11

Local cemeteries

Immaculatedly tended, and standard,
Commonwealth War Commission memorials
in Manor Park, City of London, West Ham
and Woodgrange Park Cemeteries
In addition to the meticulously maintained, official Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorials in Woodgrange Park (187 remembered), Manor Park (168 remembered), West Ham and the City of London Cemeteries (see photos), there are a number of individual headstones to some of the World War 1 fallen in each of these cemeteries maintained to varying standards - universally poorly, in the case of the Woodgrange Park Cemetery. There are other WW1-related memorials of note within local cemeteries.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial,
Woodgrange Park cemetery, Romford Road

Commonwealth War Graves Commision
memorial, Manor Park Cemetery
Firstly, two Victoria Cross holders. Perhaps the better known is that of John (Jack) Cornwell (1900 - 1916), who was awarded his medal, posthumously for his bravery as a 16-year old at the Battle of Jutland.  His memorial is in Manor Park Cemetery, (see photo).

Jack Cornwell memorial,
Manor Park cemetery
Second, Lt George Drewry  There is a monument to him in the City of London Cemetery (see photo). He is also remembered in what was his local parish church, All Saints, Romford Road, (see above).

The Drewry headstone,
City of London Cemetery

Claxton Family. There is a memorial to this family in West Ham Cemetery, though none of those remembered on it is buried there.  It does, however, throw into focus the devastating effect that the First World war had on many families.  The inscription speaks for itself: In loving memory of Pte Benjamin Claxton, 13th Rifle Brigade, wounded in France August 21st Died Bangour military hospital Sept 10th 1918 aged 19. Pte Samuel Henry Claxton 2nd HAC, killed at Beaumont Hamel Nov 30th 1916 aged 26, interred at Beaucourt. Pte William Claxton 2/10th Middlesex.  Reported missing, then killed in Palestine March 12th 1918 aged 27, interred at Bonn, Cologne.  Sons of WH and RE Claxton "God is Love" Also Rev WH Claxton who passed on to a higher life on Nov 3rd 1935, aged 72 years. Cremated in Bristol.

Other local memorials

The Imperial War Museum's inventory lists three other memorials in the Forest Gate area, two of which seem to have been lost, or at least obscured from public view.  They are:

London County Westminster and Parrs Bank - later, Nat West Branch Forest Gate, 300 Romford Road. A bronze wall plaque was erected in the branch in 1920, as the bank did in all its branches who had a member of staff killed in the conflict.  It read:  In memory of the following member of staff of this branch who gave his life in the great war 1914 - 18 (name) There was only one name (unfortunately no longer known on it.  The plaque was installed c 1920. The building is no longer a bank, or with public access.

Osborne Road According to the Imperial War Museum (IWM), Osborne Road hosted a shrine on side of an unidentified building. It consisted of a three part arch, round headed, supported on pillars. It was an example of street memorials financed and erected by the former borough of West Ham, in memory of the victims of World War 1, and located throughout the borough. According to the IWM repeated whitewashings have obliterated the inscriptions. So much so, that the significance of the tablet may have been lost over time, and been subsequently removed or destroyed.  There is no visible presence of it remaining.  We would be delighted to hear from anyone with photographs of it, or knowledge of its fate and whereabouts.

Old Bonaventurians A 4' x 3' metal enamel plaque sits in St Antony's church, it is not dedicated to all the church's fallen parishioners, however. It  commemorates the boys and masters of St Bonaventures school, situated next door to St Antony's church. Its inscription reads: To the glory of God and in memory of old Bonaventurians who gave their lives in the wars of 1914 - 1918 and 1939 - 1945


Royal Mail Sorting Office, Earlham Grove. Thanks to Carol, in the comments, below, for drawing our attention to this memorial, and to Paul Holloway for pointing us to the Royal Mail Memorial Database.

Below is a photo of this memorial, at 199 Earlham Grove.  It is wall mounted in the sorting hall, and not accessible to the public. It reads: In memory of our gallant comrades who fell in the Great War, and then lists the names.  There is an additional small plaque, attached to the bottom of it, dedicated to the memory of those who died in WW11.

Royal Mail Sorting Office memorial,
199 Earlham Grove
No sooner had this post been uploaded on the blog and a new war memorial was unveilled in Forest Gate - on 4 August 2014, the centenary of the British involvement in WW1, remembering:

The glorious dead 'K'Division, the Great War 1914. The following police officers gave their lives (23 names are listed) Here lies sacred soil of the Somme and Paschendaele 4th August 2014.
Newly unveilled war memorial,
outside Forest Gate police station,
August 2014
Footnote. We are indebted to the Imperial War Museum for much of the detail contained in this blog.  The relevant section of their website can be found at: Any corrections to the text, or up-to-date photos or sightings of any memorials mention, will be gratefully received.  They will be added to this post, and where relevant, forwarded to the Imperial War Museum, for their definitive records index and database.


  1. I was told there is a war memorial inside the sorting office in Earlham grove for the postmen,
    and although not this area I have a large book which contains the names
    of railwaymen who worked on the Great Eastern railway and gave their lives in WW1
    the same as the one on Liverpool street station , my grandfathers name is on that one .

  2. The memorial in Woodgrange park cemetery used to have a bronze/brass sword in the middle of the cross until some ******* smashed part of it and nicked the cross.

  3. That should have read nicked the sword .


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