Nazis in London and Wellington’s nose: the value of a good guide

Mural in DalstonI think I know London pretty well these days. I’m in the city most weeks, and a couple of times a month we take a long walk through different neighbourhoods and see what we can find: blue plaques depicting famous residents of the past, surprising remnants of wars or fires that have shaped the city over the centuries, and of course the colourful, vibrant signs of today’s multi-cultural and often chaotic London.

But whenever we take a tour of the city with a professional guide (often while wearing my Discount London blogging hat) there’s always a new story that I hear for the first time; something that makes me view London that little bit differently next time I visit. To illustrate the point, here are two of the stories I picked up from Oli, our charismatic driver and guide from smallcarBIGCITY:

Giro: the only Nazi buried in London

Giro the Nazi dog, buried in London

Giro the Nazi dog, buried in London

Climbing the Duke of York Steps from the Mall to reach Pall Mall, it’s easy to miss a small memorial plot on the left at the top of the staircase. In a patch of dirt sits a small modest gravestone housed in a wooden kennel-like housing. Even without knowledge of German it looks like the final resting place for a beloved pet. The tomb is inscribed with the words: “Giro” Ein treuer Begleiter London im Februar 1934 Hoesch, which translates as “Giro, a true companion, London, Febraury 1934. Hoesch is his owner’s name.

As our Mini-driving guide informed us, Hoesch was the German ambassador to the UK from 1932 and through the early years of Hitler’s rule. When his German shepherd passed away in 1934 (the result of an unfortunate encounter with an electric wire) he was afforded a full Nazi funeral, perhaps the only one to take place in London.

Wellington’s Nose

Wellington's Nose, Admiralty Arch, London

Wellington's Nose, Admiralty Arch, London

Wellington had a big nose by all accounts. In fact, just digging around online a little reveals many landmarks that have been named after his large hooter. He was also a much respected and greatly honoured military leader, and troops would doubtless be keen to have some of his good luck rub off on them before they went to battle. It makes perfect sense therefore, using a little warped logic, that there should be a bronze nose built into the stone of Admiralty Arch, as the Mall ends and meets Trafalgar Square.

The nose is situated at a height of 7 feet, just around waist height if you happen to be passing through on a horse. There is no plaque, no sign and anyone would almost certainly miss it if they weren’t looking out for it. But for those who are keen to find it, it’s clearly visible and its shining surface suggests that someone might just give it a quiet polish from time to time!

More facts

As an avid collector of trivia and forgotten stories I have really appreciated the time I’ve spent with the different London guides I’ve met in the last few months. Not only have their stories fascinated me, but they have left me ever more curious to learn about the history of the city. And beyond that, these encounters have reminded me of just how valuable a good guide can be anywhere in the world. They can transform a set of streets and buildings into a living patchwork of history, legend and mystery.

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6 Responses to “Nazis in London and Wellington’s nose: the value of a good guide”

  1. Love this post Andy, and I can’t believe I never noticed Wellington’s nose! I suppose I should have looked up when I passed through the Arch. Now I wish I had a horse so I could ride through and give it a little rub for good luck.

    Another place I loved in London is Highgate Cemetery – have you been there? It’s gorgeously Victorian Gothic and beautiful in autumn with red leaves scattered on the ground amidst the white marble and grey granite headstones.

    October 22, 2010 at 3:28 pm
  2. Thanks Peggy. I suspect most people pass Wellington’s nose without giving it a second glance (unless they are on a horse!)
    Still to do the Highgate visit, but it’s one that I am keen to do. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

    October 24, 2010 at 1:06 pm
  3. Nice post Andy! Such interesting trivia always add to the experience of roaming around a city! 🙂

    October 24, 2010 at 2:46 pm
  4. Dave Storer #

    Regretfully, although the bronze nose is a lovely idea it is in fact a hoax. Rick Buckley, an artist fixed about 35 noses around the Capital as a protest to against the “Big Brother” society in 1997. About 10 survive today. See Evening Standard 13th October 2011.

    June 26, 2012 at 12:22 pm


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