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Tucked away in a quiet corner of Postman's Park in central London, easily overlooked, lies a remarkable memorial. Under a wooden canopy, stands a short stretch of brick wall upon which are affixed over fifty ceramic plaques, each bearing the name of an ordinary person who performed a final, extraordinary act of bravery and self-sacrifice in their life. Some plaques bear two or more names. Altogether some sixty-two people are commemorated here. All of them died while trying to save the lives of others.

The Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice was created by artist George Frederic Watts, who put forward the idea for a memorial in a letter to The Times in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria's golden jubilee. Watts had been colleting stories of heroic sacrifice from newspaper clippings for many years. One story that struck a special chord was that of Alice Ayres, a servant who saved the lives of her employer’s three children by throwing a mattress out of the window to cushion the fall and dropping them to safety. Alice herself was overcome by fumes and stumbled out of the window to her death.

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Photo credit: Cheesyfeet/Flickr

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© Amusing Planet, 2017.


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