The Remarkable Bermondsey Memorial To War Hero Albert Edward McKenzie VC

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The Remarkable Bermondsey Memorial To War Hero Albert Edward McKenzie VC
Memorial to Albert Mckenzie featuring a black statue on a long white ramp in a streetscape
Image Matt Brown

London has countless memorials to fallen heroes of the two world wars, but few are as striking as this one in Bermondsey.

It commemorates Albert Edward McKenzie VC, a young sailor who died just days before the end of the first world war.

Able Seaman McKenzie was one of those serving aboard HMS Vindictive during the Zeebrugge Raid of 23 April 1918. He and several crewmates landed in the harbour and advanced into enemy fire at great peril, in an attempt to knock out some large guns. Most of the attack party were killed, and McKenzie himself was badly wounded, shot in the back and leg. The full story is recounted here.

A smiling sailor in black and white
Mckenzie receiving his VC. Image public domain

For his heroic actions, McKenzie was awarded the Victoria Cross. This remarkable Pathe news reel shows McKenzie at a local celebration in Old Kent Road, during which the Lord Mayor declared him a local hero. The still-recovering seaman is clearly in a state of some distress. We can only wonder at the conflicting emotions playing out in his mind.

Though McKenzie survived the attack on Zeebrugge his life was to be cut short by the other great killer of the era: influenza. He died in Chatham Naval Hospital on 3 November 1918, just eight days before the Armistice. He had only just turned 20 years old.

A ribbon-like statue of a sailor carrying a very heavy gun, on a white plinth
Image Matt Brown

His memorial stands on the junction where Bermondsey Street joins Tower Bridge Road. It was unveiled in 2015 to a huge crowd, including the Lord Mayors of Lambeth and Southwark and numerous naval dignitaries. HMS Belfast fired a 21-gun salute to the fallen hero, and messages from the Queen and Prime Minister David Cameron were read out.

It's a remarkable memorial, featuring a ribbon-like sculpture of the seaman carrying a large gun. Designed by local architect Tim Wood, it stands on a long white podium representing the stone causeway (or mole), which McKenzie attacked. The memorial is just metres from the sailor's birthplace in 1898 on Alice Street.

Last Updated 11 November 2022