Remembrance Sunday – Victoria Through the Wars

Headline Date 30-10-2018

Victoria isn’t just a special location because of its present and exciting future plans, but also because of its fascinating past as the epicentre of London’s history and heritage. At the heart of this, lies Victoria Station.

Victoria Station, existing since 1860, is the entry and exit point for commuters, tourists and visitors coming to see some of the wonderful attractions, events and things going on in the area, however, it wasn’t always the site of such happy scenes.

During the First and Second World Wars, the station played host to goodbye gatherings, as families would wave off their brave relatives going off to fight for their country. It was Victoria Station that became the main station for drafted soldiers and those returning from the Western Front. By the middle of WWI, the station served 12 trains every day between Victoria and Folkestone, which would see the soldier’s journey on into France to fight.

The wonderful staff at Victoria Station made sure that the soldiers left with full stomachs as they went off to fight, with a regular voluntary buffet for departing soldiers, serving up to 4,000 men a day. Witnessing years of emotion, fear and an immense feeling of community, Victoria Station became the site for a number of war memorials, most iconically the plaque for the Unknown Warrior.

On a cold November evening in 1920, an unknown soldier’s body returned to Platform 8 at Victoria Station. The following morning he was buried at Westminster Abbey, and it was decided that Platform 8 was to have a memorial dedicated to this unidentified soldier, and the many others like him, who were fighting for King and Country. This memorial was installed with an honorary funeral in the presence of King George V, commemorating all unidentified soldiers and the soldiers never to return, who perished.

Just a few years later, Victoria Station witnessed scenes of war again, in WWII, as soldiers left for war and the station acted as a substitute shelter for people who were either unable to afford bomb shelters at home or unable to reach a nearby shelter in time. Victoria Station was to sustain her own injuries this time around, with bombs hitting the building several times and a plane flying into it, but the station luckily escaped with little damage.

Again, the site of exit for the soldiers became an opportunity for a memorial, and at the end of World War II, a plaque was pinned up honouring the lost soldiers of the Southern Rail.

Nowadays, it’s difficult to imagine that a station full of smiles, friends being reunited and families going on holiday, was ever the location where London sent its soldiers off to war. Victoria Station remembers through its memorials and in a celebration of life commemorates the brave soldiers that risked their lives to allow Victoria, and all of London, to continue to live freely and with a bright future.

Since those fateful years in the early Twentieth Century, Victoria has seen happier days. The station was at the centre of celebrations for VE Day, and the area continues to be a warm and welcoming place for businesses, residents, tourists and visitors. We tip our hats to the soldiers who fought for us, and appreciate each day we get to spend in this wonderful area with such an important national history.

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