The Lewisham War Memorial Garden stands in a narrow strip of land alongside Lewisham High Street. Three tall blocks of flats separate the Garden from neighbouring Lewisham Park. I have driven past this little garden for years and not really paid any attention to it, which was a big mistake!
The location of the garden
On a map dating from the 1850s the garden looks like a small wood between three villas and the main road. By 1894-96 there were five villas and the wood looks like a more formal garden area, similar in shape to the site today.
The founding of the Memorial Garden
The Earl of Dartmouth donated from the Lewisham Park development to Lewisham Borough Council, and the new War Memorial was unveiled on 7 May 1921. E A Stone designed the memorial. The Memorial remembers the 1/4th London Brigade RFA and the 20th Battalion London Regiment who were headquartered in Lewisham during WWI. Major General Sir William Thwaites unveiled the Memorial on 7 May 1921. He was a high-ranking officer, the Director of Military Intelligence at the time. A plaque was added for WWII
The Memorial Garden today
The garden around the war memorial dates from 1963. Today the gardens are very neat and tidy. Yew is cut into columns and creates small alcoves, some of which have seats. Old fashioned bedding seems appropriate here, and gives a splash of colour. At the south end the Mayor of Lewisham planted an Indian Cedar Tree in March 1985 to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the ending of WWII and the founding of the United Nations. Plane trees line the pavement along the road.
In 2015 a new memorial was set up in the gardens. The memorial remembers the recipients of the Victoria Cross who lived in Lewisham. The stories of these men are sobering reading. Queen Victoria created the Victoria Cross in 1856 and it is the highest and most prestigious award for members of the British Armed Services. It recognises ‘…valour in the presence of the enemy…’. There are only 1,358 VCs.
In 1918 Brigadier General Clifford Coffin was the first general officer awarded the VC. After the war he had a distinguished military career. Francis Harvey RM died on HMS Lion in 1916; Lt Alan Jerrard was in the RFC and awarded the VC for actions in 1918; Lt Richard Jones died on Vimy Ridge in 1916, aged 19 years; Private John Lynn died of gas poisoning at Ypres in 1915, aged 27 years; Captain Walter Stone was only 26 when he died at Cambrai.
Further information: Lewisham Archives