Can You Name These British Heroes From Their Statues?

By: Zoe Samuel
Image: DESPITE STRAIGHT LINES (Paul Williams) / Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Every day, people do great acts of heroism, from risking their lives to helping others to giving up their dreams to serve others. Some of these people achieve recognition, while many do not. The result is that statues are generally raised only to the most public of heroes. This translates in a particularly large number of statues of military heroes, who were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend their homelands. However, other types of heroes are not always left out. Great writers and artists who challenge us to think differently and see our true nature are often celebrated, as are scientists who gave their lives to uncovering the secrets of the universe.

As a nation that is very keen on its history, the United Kingdom is traditionally enthusiastic about putting up statues to its heroes. There is scarcely a village in the country that does not have a memorial to World War Two, typically naming its local heroes. There are also plenty of monuments celebrating heroes from all walks of life. Some are individualized and some hail groups who made waves collectively. There are even statues of heroic animals.

Can you match the hero to their stone or bronze likeness? It's time to find out!

The Crown murdered William Tynedale for having the audacity to translate the Bible into English, which was considered controversial at the time. A single copy of his New Testament translation remains. He had the last laugh after his death, of course, as the same people who killed him mostly lived to see Henry VII break with Rome.

Agatha Christie is the creator of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple and is often considered one of the greatest mystery writers of all time. Her work has been the subject of multiple TV and movie adaptations, and she is noted for making it possible — but extremely difficult — to figure out "whodunnit"!

Jamaican-born Mary Seacole traveled extensively, bringing her nursing skills to many places. At the same time that Florence Nightingale was transforming the profession, Seacole equalled her with similar work, and gained a similarly well-deserved high reputation. After the war, she was very poor, but she was so beloved that thousands donated money to give her a good pension.

The Kindertransport was a tragic event, whereby thousands of German Jewish families were able to save the lives of their children by putting them on ships to England. A number of wealthy British Jews staked their fortunes to sponsor the children, promising they would never be a burden on the public purse and thus persuading the government to accept them. Families took them in upon their arrival. This heroism of the parents, families and sponsors is celebrated by this memorial.

There are many statues of Shakespeare dotted about. However, the biggest memorial is possibly the Globe Theatre, which was lovingly recreated and opened in 1997, almost exactly as it was in his time. A key difference is that there is plumbing, plus the rows of seats are a little further apart, as people are taller now!

William Wallace was a Scottish rebel who came close to throwing off the yoke of the English throne. Unfortunately, he failed and was hanged, drawn and quartered. However, he inspired a rebellion that eventually succeeded. When Scotland next became one kingdom with England, legally speaking (though practice took time to catch up), it was as a union of equals.

Born Mary Evans, George Eliot is one of the great Victorian novelists. Eliot's novels include "Daniel Deronda" and the perennial bestseller "Middlemarch." Her charming statue stands in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.

Queen Victoria is one of the most-commemorated women in the UK if you go by statues. She was very widely loved by her people, which meant it was quite easy to raise funds for images of her! Elizabeth II has now been on the throne for longer, but Victoria retains a special place in the hearts of her people.

Winston Churchill said of these men, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." The Few, as they are known, won the Battle of Britain. If they had lost, the Nazis would have invaded Britain and thus been able to conquer all Europe, then turn all their forces on Russia and conquer that too. The Few prevented millions of deaths.

Alice Nutter was one of the Pendle Witches, who were subjected to a famous trial in the 17th century. Witches were often just female healers or women who had otherwise been deemed to trespass on topics that were not "for" women. Nutter was hanged in 1612.

Noor Inayat Khan was a British Muslim war hero who volunteered to join the Special Operations Executive, the spy group who sabotaged Nazis and boosted the resistance behind enemy lines. She was eventually killed by the Nazis aged 30, but not before she had contributed significantly to the French resistance in Paris. Her statue is believed to be the only memorial to a female British Muslim war hero.

The Gurkhas are a military unit of Nepalese soldiers, who fought for the Allies in World War Two, though they have been part of the military for 200 years. Gurkhas not only helped defeat the Nazis, they then had to fight for their right to residency in the UK, which they won in 2009.

Margaret MacDonald was part of the Women's Industrial Council and helped to transform worker's rights in the Industrial Age, particularly the rights of female workers. She was also a chemistry professor!

Joan Littlewood was born in 1914 and made a successful career as a theater director at a time that women did not do this. She once lived in her theater during a renovation and is known as the mother of modern theatre.

Boudica fought the Romans heroically at a time that nobody believed Rome could be challenged. She lost her fight, but her heroism kept the flame of hope alive. The Roman Empire did eventually fall, and Britain was liberated.

Sarah Siddons was born in Wales and is the first performer to enjoy a London monument (unless you count Shakespeare, who is mostly commemorated as a writer). She was a great stage performer in the Victorian age, and her statue was put up in 1897.

Robert Peel realized that the streets of London were becoming increasingly unsafe and that what was needed was a civilian entity distinct from militias or the army itself. The Metropolitan Police was born, and nicknamed "bobbies" in honor of the original "Bobby" who founded them!

Florence Nightingale is responsible for the professionalizing of nursing, and her reforms turned hospitals from places that a person would go to die, into places one would go to heal. All the "wrong" answers in this question are heroic British pioneers in medicine, too, and well worth looking into!

Emmeline Pankhurst was once in her bed as a girl when her father put his head into her room. Thinking she was sleeping, he said, "What a pity she wasn't born a lad." Later, she founded the militant wing of the suffrage movement, the Women's Social and Political Union. Their struggle took decades, and many were beaten, imprisoned and tortured, but they finally won the right to vote.

Not much is taught in schools in the UK and USA about the war in Burma, but the Japanese and the British faced off in a terrible grinding conflict that lasted years and was fought under horrific conditions. Heroic Indian and Chinese troops also fought back against the Japanese invasion, and without their efforts, much of the Far East may have fallen to the Axis. Bill Slim commanded this force, and the very least he deserves is a statue!

Salter was the first woman mayor in London, as well as a pacifist and a reformer. She was an important figure in the fight for workers' rights in the UK and enjoyed a statue alongside that of her husband, Dr. Alfred Salter, who did similar work.

Born John Brodribb, this actor and theatre manager started his career as a clerk for the East India Company. He was miserable and instead became a stage actor and a huge Victorian celebrity. He set a precedent for great performers who move and inspire enough people to receive knighthoods.

Woolf is a great British writer who tragically died by suicide after a lifelong battle with depression. She pioneered the use of stream-of-consciousness, and wrote several bestsellers including "A Room of One's Own."

All of these four women were great suffragettes. Fawcett's statue was recently placed outside Parliament after a campaign to honor more of Britain's female heroes, led by activist Caroline Criado Perez. Fawcett's statue holds the words of Emmeline Pankhurst, spoken upon the death of suffragette Emily Davison, who died for women's votes: "Courage calls to courage everywhere." A further 59 suffragette heroes are engraved on the plinth.

This monument was put up in 2004 and made by sculptor David Backhouse. It honors all the many camels, dogs, horses, dolphins and other animals who fought Britain's wars, saying prominently the words, "They had no choice."

A Quaker who cared deeply about the less fortunate, Elizabeth Fry was disgusted by the squalor and cruelty to which prisoners were subjected in Victorian England. Her reforms created a more humane and rehabilitative system.

Churchill was not a good peacetime leader. He let many Indians die in a famine, mostly out of paranoia that Britain might be invaded and run out of food. Also, early in his career, he allowed terrible police brutality against the Irish. However, Churchill also saw the Nazi threat coming a mile away when everyone else thought Hitler was a flash in the pan, and in so doing, led the defeat of the Nazis and ended the worst genocide in human history. Thus, he is beloved but controversial.

Admiral Nelson won the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, thus securing British control of the seas during the Napoleonic Wars. Without this victory, it is unlikely that Napoleon could have easily been defeated on land. Nelson was wounded in the battle and later died, but he lived long enough to know that he won!

The Gunpowder Plot was an effort by Catholic revolutionaries to blow up Parliament with the King inside. The act of terror was unsuccessful, and the conspirators were put to death. Fawkes' execution is commemorated annually by the burning of a "Guy," a straw figure, on a bonfire.

Oliver Cromwell is a complex historical figure to many. He defeated the Cavaliers (the royalist side) in the Civil War and assured the sovereignty of the elected Parliament over the monarch, setting the stage for many further revolutions and parts of the Enlightenment. However, he also butchered thousands of people in Ireland, which should not be forgotten no matter what else he did.

Arguably the greatest mathematician who ever lived, Isaac Newton was rather humble about his achievements. He laid down principles on which a considerable amount of modern science rests — and it all started with an apple falling on his head.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was a giant of the Industrial Age, who built railways, ships and Paddington Station. He was a very skilled engineer but wasn't particularly interested in workers' rights. Indeed, it is believed that some of his ships set sail with several workers' bodies between their inner and outer hulls, where some poor soul fell in and died, at which point getting them out was deemed too much of a hassle!

These four names are all great figures in the history of genetics. Darwin, of course, is the father of evolution, and the first person to postulate the theory of evolution through natural selection. In his native land, his work is not considered controversial these days, though it is seen differently elsewhere.

The Duke of Wellington was the leader who defeated Napoleon twice. He received a title from just about every monarch in Europe to thank him for liberating their nations, and many British streets are named for him.

All these men were influential military leaders. Bomber Harris is of particular note as he bravely formulated the Royal Air Force's strategy in defending Britain from the Nazis' vastly superior planes. His genius helped save his homeland from invasion.

The Special Operations Executive was a group that was sent behind enemy lines to "set Europe ablaze," as Churchill put it. They blew up railways, sabotaged communications, and generally messed with the Nazis. About 30% of the SOE was female, including notable spies like Noor Inayat Khan. Szabo was caught shortly after D Day and tortured, but went to her death without giving up any colleagues.

The Fab Four may hail from Liverpool, but the town has a uniquely rich artistic history. Much of Liverpool's history is due to American influence, as a result of U.S. soldiers coming over during World War Two and bringing their records with them. Cilla Black was a beloved singer and performer, a household name and a self-made millionaire.

All these possible answers are essential when it comes to the end of slavery in the British Empire. However, Wilberforce gets a statue due to being one of the people who led some very crafty political maneuvering in Parliament to bring it about. He was also an advocate for the rights of free workers.

The Great Western Railway was designed and built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and it began a global revolution. Indeed, it was the first time that rapid transit ever existed, and it changed the world. However, several workers died in building it, which is why this statue was put up.

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