Category Archives: Remembrance

Destination station

Schlesisches Tor U-bahn station, Berlin

The Schlesisches Tor station on Berlin’s U1 elevated railway is spectacular – much more than a place to catch a train.

It formed part of Berlin’s first overground electric rail service, built to the designs of the architects Hans Grisebach (1848-1904) and Georg Dinklage (1849-1926) by the construction company Siemens & Halske, pioneers of electric traction.  Heinrich Giesecke (1862-1937) was responsible for the architectural decoration which included elaborately carved stonework, wrought-ironwork and an onion-dome turret.

Its opulent historicist style gave it prestige, and the street-level facilities were generous – several shops, including a pastry shop, and a restaurant named Torkrug.

Named after a former entrance to the city, the Silesian Gate, it was opened in 1902.

It suffered a direct hit in an Allied air raid on March 11th-12th 1945, but services continued until the power supply failed, putting the entire network out of action on April 22nd.

For a time after the end of the War Schlesisches Tor became a terminus until the through service was restored in April 1947.  It was interrupted again, briefly during an uprising in 1953, and ultimately when the Berlin Wall divided the city in 1961.  The through service was eventually reopened in 1995.

Even before reunification the station was recognised as a historic monument.  The former restaurant was occupied by a retail store, the Kaufhaus am Tor (commonly shortened to Kato).  The name Kato was perpetuated by a club which took over the space after 1981.  From 2012 Kato was succeeded by a night-club, Bi Nuu.

The station was listed in 1980 and renovated for the International Building Exhibition in 1984 and the 750th anniversary of the city of Berlin in 1987.

A commemorative plaque honours Alfred Flatow (1869-1942), a Jewish gymnast who won three gold and one silver medals in the 1896 Olympic Games.  He and his colleagues were suspended by the national gymnastics governing body Deutsche Turnerschaft which regarded the Games as “unGerman”.  Alfred and his cousin Gustav (1875-1945), who himself won two gold medals in 1896, were among the founders of the Judische Turnerschaft in 1903.  Both perished in the Holocaust – Alfred at the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp and Gustav in the Theresienstadt Ghetto.

Both cousins are commemorated in the naming of the Flatow-Sporthalle nearby, the renaming of the Reichssportsfeld Strasse [street of the National Sports Complex] as Flatowallee [Flatow Boulevard].  They are also illustrated on one of a set of four stamps issued by Deutsche Post to celebrate the centenary of the 1896 Olympic Games.

Fragmentary remains

Site of former Brightside & Carbrook Staniforth Road store: pilaster base

When I’m stuck for information about an aspect of Sheffield’s architectural and social history, one of the people I call on is Robin Hughes, trustee of Hallamshire Historic Buildings and Joined Up Heritage Sheffield.  He almost always has a detailed, referenced answer.

In return, he occasionally asks me for answers to his queries.  Sometimes I know something;  other times I’m clueless, as I was when he asked if I’d noticed three stones on the west side of Staniforth Road in Attercliffe, immediately downhill from the Pinfold Bridge across the Sheffield Canal. 

The blunt answer was no:  I must have driven past them hundreds of times and never even glanced in their direction.

Robin was at a loss to explain them, though they had clearly been significant.  Two form a pair at the boundary of Spartan Works though too far apart to mark an entrance;  the other is smaller (or perhaps lower) and immediately adjacent to the canal-bridge parapet.

It would have been irresponsible for me to speculate:  any conjecture of mine would have been no more than a wild guess.  Robin’s initial hypothesis was that they were boundary markers, and he found an 1819 map on Picture Sheffield to support it.  But he added, “There may be another explanation, though.”

And there was.  Within a couple of hours he e-mailed again with the correct answer.

These stones are all that remains of the Brightside & Carbrook Co-operative Society’s Staniforth Road store [Print details Picture Sheffield], which was built in 1894 when Staniforth Road was still Pinfold Lane, and completely destroyed in the Blitz in December 1940.  They are, in Robin’s words “the decorative bases of the shop front pilasters, and are not functional.”  The building was designed by the B&C’s preferred architect, Henry Webster.  In this Picture Sheffield image [Print details Picture Sheffield] of the ruins the single stone is visible next to the small child on the extreme left.

These almost invisible vestiges mark a place where Attercliffe people shopped for “value for money furniture”, jewellery, prams, pianos, cycles, carpets, rugs and mats, according to an advertisement in The Sheffield Co-operator (May 1924) that promises “Give us your co-operation, and we will give you Civility, Attention, and Free Delivery”:  Issue_021_May_1924.pdf ( [page 3].

It’s also a memento of a night of terror in December 1940 when bombs rained on Attercliffe obliterating familiar shops, pubs and churches, making many houses uninhabitable and killing at least 660 people across the city.

These three small pilaster bases would almost certainly have been forgotten without Robin’s detective work, and their history would have been lost.

In the imminent rejuvenation of Attercliffe I suggest it’s important to commemorate the lives and lifestyles that went before.

The Friends of Zion Graveyard have made it easy for visitors to visualise what was on their site until a few decades ago by raising funds to install professionally composed interpretation boards that are now accompanied by a £5 guide book.

The writer Neil Anderson has led a series of effective campaigns to ensure that the 1940 Sheffield Blitz is not forgotten.  His easy-to-use app [Sheffield Blitz 85th] enables anyone with a mobile phone in their hand to visit relevant locations in and around the city centre, accompanied by the voice of the late Doug Lightning, the last surviving firefighter to have been on duty in the midst of the raid.  Ian Castle has commemorated the World War I raid on the Lower Don Valley in 1916:  Sheffield author Neil Anderson relaunches book that led to proper tribute to city sacrifice in Blitz (

Attercliffe has more than enough sites associated with the Blitz to make a walking trail that captures for younger generations the impact of two nights’ destruction in the dark days of the Second World War.  Alongside books, videos and apps, there’s a special immediacy to markers of the actual sites that casual pedestrians can stumble upon, like Gunter Demnig’s StolpersteineStolpersteine | Mike Higginbottom Interesting Times.

If “heritage” means anything, it’s about linking the experience of past generations to the imagination of those who follow.

Polish Airmen’s Memorial, Bradley, North Yorkshire

Polish Airmen’s Memorial, Bradley, North Yorkshire

On the quiet towpath of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal near the settlement of Low Bradley, south of Skipton, there is a memorial marking the site where a Wellington aircraft HZ251, flying from Skipton-on-Swale near Thirsk to Silloth in Cumbria, lost a wing and crashed into the canal embankment on September 23rd 1943.

Seven Polish airmen were killed instantly.  Five of them were the crew of another aircraft which had been grounded, stranding them away from their base.

The seven airmen were –

Flt Lt Jozef WOLNIK age 31 Navigator instructor

Flt Sgt Franciszek CIASTON age 27 pilot

Flt Sgt Wladyslaw OSTROWSKI age 27

Sgt Boleslaw Josef SWIECA age 28

Sgt Boleslaw RYCHEL age 21

Sgt Jan CZYZEWSKI age 23

Sgt Abram KAWENOCKI age 22

Five of them are buried at Fulford Cemetery, York.  Flt Lt Wolnik rests at Layton Cemetery in Blackpool, and Sgt Kawenocki lies in Long Lane Jewish Cemetery, Liverpool.

Among the local people who rushed to the scene was Jack Lockwood, one of three young mechanics repairing tractors for the West Riding War Agricultural Executive Committee, or “War Agg”.  He travelled past the site, near Winifred’s Café, every day by bus:  he noted how quickly the gruesome wreck was cleared away, but thought about the dead airmen twice a day on his way to and from work until in due course he joined the armed services:

These Polish airmen’s stories have been meticulously researched.  Jan Czyzewski had married in February 1943;  his son was born four weeks before he was killed.  Jozef Wolnik had been married only three weeks.  Details of all seven airmen are recorded at

A lifetime later, two local men, Peter Whitaker and Jim Hartley, successfully campaigned for the memorial to be built so this episode should not be forgotten.  It was unveiled by Jozef Wolnik’s widow, Mrs Josephine Stebbing MBE, on April 22nd 2007.

Those of us who didn’t live through those times may be tempted to visualise wartime fatalities as the direct result of enemy action, but war spreads its evil further.  These foreign airmen who had come to Britain to fight the Nazis lost their lives while routinely travelling back to base.  Their lives were cut short, and their loved ones’ futures irreparably damaged. 

They deserve to be remembered too.

Mi Amigo

Mi Amigo memorial, Endcliffe Park, Sheffield

I’ve been aware for a long time that there was a memorial to the ten airmen who died when their USAAF B-17G Flying Fortress crashed in Sheffield’s western suburbs in 1944, but I mistakenly thought it was located somewhere in the depths of Ecclesall Woods.

Returning from a bombing mission over Denmark, the plane Mi Amigo was crippled by enemy gunfire and inexorably losing height as it limped towards the city.

David Harvey has extensively researched the story of Mi Amigo and its crew, which he wrote up and published in Mi Amigo’:  the story of Sheffield’s Flying Fortress (ALD Design & Print 1997).

Eye-witness accounts agree that the plane approached Endcliffe Park from the south-east, over Gleadless and Heeley, and circled looking for a place to land.  Eventually an engine died and the plane spun three times and plunged to the earth among the trees.

In 1969, when ten scarlet oak trees were planted to replace those that were destroyed or had to be felled after the wreckage was cleared, two memorial plaques were fixed to a large boulder, listing the ten airmen and dedicated to their memory:

Erected by

Sheffield RAF Association

in memory of

the ten crew of USAAF bomber

which crashed in this park


Per Ardua Ad Astra

Lt John Kriegshauser (pilot, from Missouri)

Lt Lyle Curtis (co-pilot, from Idaho)

Lt John Whicker Humphrey (navigator, from Illinois)

Lt Melchor Hernandez (bomb-aimer, from California)

Sgt Robert Mayfield (radio operator/log-keeper/photographer, from Illinois)

Sgt Harry Estabrooks (flight engineer/top-turret gunner, from Kansas)

Sgt Charles Tuttle (lower turret gunner, from Kentucky)

Sgt Maurice Robbins (rear-gunner, from Texas)

Sgt Vito Ambrosio (waist-gunner and assistant radio operator, from New York)

Sgt George Malcolm Williams (waist-gunner and assistant flight engineer, from Oklahoma)

An annual commemoration, supported by the Hallamshire Branch of the Royal British Legion, takes place on the Sunday nearest to the anniversary.

A group of schoolboys who saw the plane come down never forgot it, and one of them, Tony Faulds, aided by the BBC journalist Dan Walker, campaigned for a flypast to mark the 75th anniversary of the incident.

On the morning of February 22nd 2019 ten RAF and USAAF aircraft flew over Endcliffe Park, watched by a crowd of thousands and broadcast live on BBC Breakfast.

Nuanced analyses in response to the 2019 commemoration suggest that the commonly accepted account has been repeatedly embellished:  Did Tony Foulds Lie About Mi Amigo? • The Sheffield Guide.

History is complicated.  Multiple witnesses see a sudden event from different viewpoints.  Seventy-five years is a long time to recollect facts accurately.  Journalists prioritise an eye-catching story over a forensic examination of facts.

What matters, surely, is that the supreme sacrifice of ten airmen is remembered and recognised by those of us who have lived after them.

Update: The eightieth anniversary of the Mi Amigo crash was marked by a further fly-past: Flypast to mark 80th anniversary of Mi Amigo US bomber crash (

Further update: Tony Fauld’s continuing mission to keep faith with the memory of the Mi Amigo crew is detailed in this July 2024 news article: Sheffield war memorial caretaker hails ‘marvellous’ response after tools stolen | Sheffield | The Guardian.

Colonel Lance Newnham GC MC (1889-1943)

Stanley Military Cemetery, Hong Kong: grave of Colonel Lance Newham GC MC (1889-1943)

Stanley, on the southern shore of Hong Kong Island, dates back to the foundation of the British colony in 1842 and has always been the location of the main military base.

A short walk from the beach lies Stanley Military Cemetery, used for burials up to 1866, and then again during the brutal Japanese occupation from Christmas 1941 to the end of the War.

It has the hallmarks of a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery – the Cross of Sacrifice overlooking rows of uniform gravestones and immaculately kept lawns – interspersed with nineteenth-century gravestones, civilian burials and the improvised memorials erected during the occupation:

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission identifies 595 burials within the cemetery, each denoting a story of hardship and fortitude. 

Elsewhere on the island, the post-war Sai Wan War Cemetery contains 1,528 Commonwealth and Dutch burials and commemorates a further group of Indian personnel who were cremated according to their religious beliefs.

In Stanley Military Cemetery one gravestone in particular caught my eye – Captain L A Newnham GC MC of the Middlesex Regiment, who died on December 18th 1942 aged 54, “shot while a prisoner of war for refusing to betray his comrades”.  The motto at the foot of his gravestone is simply “True to the end”.

He earned his Military Cross in the First World War.  His posthumous George Cross was awarded for his heroism in working to arrange escapes and for defying Japanese attempts through torture and starvation to make him divulge details of his connection with an MI9 unit, the clandestine British Army Aid Group:–NEWNHAM.

Colonel Newham was not alone.  Two others, Captain Douglas Ford (1918-1943) and Flight Lieutenant Hector Gray (1911-1943), were executed by firing squad alongside him.

Another notable victim of Japanese brutality was Captain Mateen Ahmed Ansari GC (1916-1943) of the 5th Battalion, 7th Rajput Regiment, in the Indian Army, who was beheaded for repeatedly refusing to renounce his allegiance to Great Britain.

Hong Kong under Japanese occupation was a bad place to be, and the catalogue of atrocities is lengthy.

For me, as a casual visitor, Colonel Newnham’s stone and story stood for the unimaginable hardships endured by those who happened to be on the island at the time.

For your tomorrow we gave our today

Fountains Hall, North Yorkshire: memorial to Elizabeth and Charles Vyner

Fountains Hall is a quirky Jacobean house, built into a steep hillside, probably to a design by Robert Smythson, on the edge of the precinct of the medieval Fountains Abbey.  Indeed, its stones came from the Abbey, plundered by the builder, the unlikeable Stephen Proctor, in the first decade of the seventeenth century. 

Periods of neglect in its long history kept it intact and charming.  In the late 1920s it was renovated by Commander Clare and Lady Doris Vyner and during the Second World War the house was used to accommodate evacuees.

The Vyners’ daughter Elizabeth joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service and died of lethargic encephalitis, or sleeping sickness, aged eighteen, on June 3rd 1942.  Her death reminds us that not all the victims of war die by enemy action, but for their loved ones the loss is as great and the grief no less hard to bear.

Elizabeth Vyner’s younger brother, Charles De Grey Vyner, served as a pilot in the Royal Naval Reserve, and was reported missing in action when his plane crashed into the sea off Rangoon on May 2nd 1945.  He was nineteen.

Word reached his family on May 12th.  After the euphoria of VE Day on the 8th there could hardly have been a more cruel blow.

After the War Elizabeth and Charles’ parents erected a memorial, poignantly placed above the main door of the Hall, a stained-glass window flanked by carved figures of brother and sister in uniform.  It was designed by John Seely and Paul Paget and was unveiled on April 9th 1953 by Elizabeth’s godmother, after whom she was named, HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

The memorial is visible only to visitors leaving the house, unless on entering they reach the top of the stairs and turn. 

Its inscription reads, “When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today.  From this their home, they went forth to war.”


Stolpersteine [stumbling stones], Luisenstraße, Wuppertal, Germany

I was walking along a back street, Luisenstraße, in the little German town of Wuppertal on a bright spring morning when I first stumbled, as the artist intended, upon an example of a Stolperstein, which literally translates as “stumbling stone”.

The expression metaphorically refers to a “stumbling block” – one of Gunter Demnig’s many brass pavement setts installed across Europe to commemorate victims of the Holocaust, memorialised at their last freely chosen place of residence. 

Here are four together, stating simply “Hier wohnte…” [Here lived…] Emil and Henriette Hirschberg, ermordet [murdered] in Minsk, and Samuel and Sophie Zuckermann, ermordet respectively in Chelmno and Auschwitz.  There are now over seventy thousand of these poignant reminders, deliberately designed to trip up the unthinking passer-by, from Spain to Greece and from Poland to Sicily. 

There were two outside my 1950s Berlin hotel in the heavily bombed area of Friedrichshain, and I found another on a pavement in the modern development that replaces the bombed wastes of Potsdamer Platz, where the course of the Berlin Wall created a dead zone that lasted a generation after the war ended.

I spotted another, in Budapest, embedded in the pavement of what had been the Jewish Quarter but which became, at the end of 1944, the ghetto.  Here the last fragment of the ghetto wall was dismantled in 2006 but a reproduction, using some original stone, was erected as a memorial two years later.

Gunter Demnig’s work is much less likely to be obliterated, even if a few setts are discarded, and there can never be too many reminders of the mass murders of 1933-45.

It’s idle to believe that such a crime could never happen again.

I carry with me the last line of Bertholt Brecht’s 1941 play, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui:  “The bitch that bore him is in heat again.”

Tyson Smith



Cenotaph, St George's Plateau, Liverpool

Cenotaph, St George’s Plateau, Liverpool

I first came across the work of the sculptor Herbert Tyson Smith (1883-1972) in a roundabout way.

I was struck by the majestic war memorial on Hamilton Square in Birkenhead, because alongside the set-piece Portland stone cenotaph by Lionel Bailey Budden (1887-1956), embellished with Tyson Smith’s sculptures, lies a phalanx of simple black marble slabs placed by local community groups to remember their own heroes – those who were killed at Dunkirk, in the Blitz, in Normandy, in the Burma campaign, Korea, numerous regiments including the Welsh Guards and the Irish Guards, “all shipmates who crossed the bar in the service of their country”, Merchant Navy seafarers and Merseyside aircrew.

Somehow, these recognisable cohorts are more immediately moving than the huge list of 1,293 names of the individuals killed in the First World War.  The names of those who died in the Second World War are recorded in a Book of Remembrance in the Town Hall.

The original plan was to locate the Great War memorial on the north side of the square, but by popular demand the statue of William Lever, the founder of Birkenhead, was moved to the west so that the war memorial could stand foursquare in front of the Town Hall portico.

Tyson Smith did the sculpture for other civic war memorials for Widnes (1921), Accrington (1922), Southport (1923) and Fleetwood (1927), but his reliefs on the Liverpool cenotaph outside St George’s Hall, unveiled in 1930, are the most powerful.

The cenotaph is a simple, shaped block of Stancliffe stone, designed like the Birkenhead memorial by Lionel Budden, carrying two 31-foot bronze relief panels of haunting poignancy.

The panel facing St George’s Hall shows ranks of grim-faced soldiers, each face distinct and individual, marching relentlessly from left to right, above a quotation from Ezekiel 38:15 – “OUT OF THE NORTH PARTS A GREAT COMPANY AND A MIGHTY ARMY”.

On the other panel, facing Lime Street Station, Tyson Smith depicts those left behind, the mourners, of all ages, men, women and children, in contemporary dress, some bringing wreaths and flowers.  Underneath is a verse from the second book of Samuel 19:2 – “AND THE VICTORY THAT DAY WAS TURNED INTO MOURNING UNTO ALL THE PEOPLE”.

It’s impossible to walk past this monument and not remember what it stands for.

Hong Kong hero

Hong Kong Cemetery:  grave of Driver Joseph Hughes GC

Hong Kong Cemetery: grave of Driver Joseph Hughes GC

Understandably, Remembrance brings foremost to British minds and hearts the two World Wars and the conflicts within living memory – particularly the Falklands, Afghanistan and Iraq.

In fact, British servicemen and women have given their lives in every year but two since 1945:

One such I found when I explored the vast cemetery in the centre of Hong Kong.

On March 21st 1946 Driver Joseph Hughes of the Royal Army Service Corps was driving his three-ton lorry of ammunition and explosives when it caught fire.

Joseph Hughes tried desperately to remove the burning netting covering the load of munitions, and then he tackled the blaze with a fire extinguisher.

He survived the explosion but died of his wounds two days later.

He was awarded a posthumous George Cross, because his sacrifice was not in the face of an enemy but was nevertheless an act “of the greatest heroism [and] most conspicuous courage in circumstance of extreme danger”.

Not much seems to be known of Joseph Hughes, who came from the Glasgow Gorbals and would have been about twenty-four years old:

We honour such heroes, who are trained to run towards danger when the rest of us would run away, among all those who have given their lives in military service.

Some mother’s son

Unknown serviceman's grave, Kirk Patrick Churchyard, Isle of Man

Unknown serviceman’s grave, Kirk Patrick Churchyard, Isle of Man

My friend John pointed out to me, in the Manx churchyard of Kirk Patrick, a grave to an unknown serviceman, with the motto “Some mother’s son”, a white marble cross inscribed “British – unidentified – interred 27th Feb 1918” and, in tiny lettering at the foot, “Erected by Florrie Forde, 1927”.

Very little seems to be recorded of the circumstances of this story. Florrie Forde (1875-1940) was a hugely famous music-hall singer, Australian by birth, who dominated British variety theatre from the beginning of the twentieth century until the start of the Second World War.

She kept a cottage on the Manx coast at Niarbyl, where this unidentifiable but clearly British serviceman was washed ashore.

Rather than allow him to be buried in obscurity, Florrie wanted to make sure he had a monument, if not a name, as his unknown mother would have wished.

Florrie was entertaining troops when she died in 1940, and her passing was commemorated by the poet Louis MacNeice in ‘Death of an Actress’: