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Curtains up on 1104’s Camden PoW memorial

[First look] 1104 Architects’ peace memorial in Mornington Crescent has been formally unveiled

Commemorating WWII prisoners of war in the Far East, the project is thought to be the first Forgotten Spaces competition entry ever to be built.

Hereditary peer John Douglas Slim – son of Burma Corps commander William Slim – formally opened the monument during a ceremony attended by prisoner of war camps survivors last month.

Practice founder and director Chris Roche said: ‘There have been many kind donations of time, materials, or services which have helped realise this modest memorial to the Prisoners of War whose experiences were featured in the 1957 Oscar winning movie Bridge over the River Kwai.’

The architects’ view

1104 Architects’ memorial to the Far East prisoners of war in Mornington Crescent, London

1104 Architects’ memorial to the Far East prisoners of war in Mornington Crescent, London

I was thrilled to be invited to design this Peace Memorial by Eric Gordon of the Camden New Journal, not least because it was funded by donations from the residents of Camden, and proposed by the former Mayor of Camden, councillor Roger Robinson.

The idea for the monument came from the Prisoner’s story, as depicted in the Oscar winning movie of 1957 – A Bridge on the River Kwai.

The film celebrates the triumph of the human spirit in the face of extreme adversity, and just as the bridge becomes a symbol of good emerging out of evil, so it is hoped this monument will invite people to reflect on the constant need to work on building peace.

The memorial has been conceived in both an abstract and representational way. The railway sleepers and rail track are used to represent the Burma Railway, however rather than use them in a literal representation, they have been abstracted to form a cruciform plan representing the Universal symbol of human suffrage - a crucifix.

The base supports a more conventional granite memorial which is inscribed with an illustration by one of the survivors of the camps – Ronald Searle, whose illustration was made during his time in the Far East. I hope in viewing this memorial, the people of Camden will come to understand the connection with the building of the Burma Railway, and come to appreciate that despite the suffering, the Prisoners were able to build something of immense value which outlived the war, and which continues to inspire and uplift in times of peace.

Chris Roche


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