First World War memorial commemorating Norwegian seamen, unveiled 1927.
Reasons for Designation
Rotherhithe (Norwegian Seamen) War Memorial is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* As an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on the people of Norway, and the sacrifices its seamen made in the First World War in support of British shipping.
* As a dignified and attractive granite cenotaph memorial.
* With the Grade II-listed St Olav's Kirke and adjacent Grade II-listed Archway to Rotherhithe tunnel.
The aftermath of the First World War saw a huge wave of public commemoration with tens of thousands of memorials erected across the country. Most commemorated the residents of local parishes that lost their lives during the conflict. However this memorial at St Olav's Kirke in Rotherhithe was erected to commemorate the seamen of Norway who lost their lives in the First World War.
At the outbreak of the war Norway had only been independent (from Sweden) for nine years, and it was official state policy to remain neutral in international conflicts. However the country came under strong British pressure to join the blockade on shipping to Germany, and began to experience heavy losses to its merchant navy, especially following Germany's commencement of unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917. With anti-German feeling running high, the Norwegian government negotiated a number of economic and supply deals highly favourable to the Allies, whilst endeavouring to avoid an open breach with Germany. Despite this an estimated 2,100 Norwegian seamen lost their lives in the course of the war due to military action.
St Olav's Church was erected in 1927 in order to provide a place of worship for the Norwegian community of London. The war memorial was unveiled the same year by Crown Prince Olav, later King Olav V (r. 1957 - 1991).
In 2017 the memorial was moved slightly to form part of the boundary wall and the lettering was re-inscribed in black, as part of a wider refurbishment of the churchyard area undertaken with Southwark Council. The new churchyard was officially opened by Princess Astrid of Norway on the 17 September 2017 in a ceremony attended by veterans of the Norwegian wartime shipping fleet.
A cenotaph of rough-dressed granite, in the form of a rectangular standing stone with rounded top, forming part of the boundary fencing* to St Olav's Kirke. The front, street-facing side of the memorial bears a carving of an anchor at the top, below which is the following inscription, in black lettering on polished granite, TO THE MEMORY OF / 2101 SEAMEN / WHO STAKED / AND GAVE THEIR LIVES / UNDER THE FLAG OF / NORWAY / IN THE GREAT WAR / 1914 -1918 / "IN THE SIGHT OF THE / UNWISE THEY SEEMED / TO DIE" WIS III2. The inscription is decorated with a garland curtain, exploding mines and heart carvings. The bottom of the slab section is inscribed ERECTED BY THE SHIPOWNERS OF NORWAY. The sides of the memorial bear the carving of rope. The back, church-facing side is identical to the front, save for the inscription, which is in Norwegian, TIL MINNE OM / 2101 SJØMENN / SOM SATTE LIVET TIL / UNDER NORGES FLAGG / VERDENSKRIGEN 1914-1918 / – MEN KUN FOR DEN / UFORSTAAENDES ØIE /ER DE DØDE / NORGES REDERFORBUND REISTE STENEN.
* Pursuant to s1(5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that these aforementioned features (namely the fence and boundary wall) are not of special architectural or historic interest.
This List entry has been amended to add the source for War Memorials Online. This source was not used in the compilation of this List entry but is added here as a guide for further reading, 30 January 2018.