The Glorious Dead: war memorials of the First World War

The aftermath of the First World War saw an unprecedented wave of public commemoration with tens of thousands of memorials erected across the country. This gallery of images from the Historic England Archive and Google Street View illustrates a handful of England's famous and lesser-known war memorials.  

Detail of a carved stone lion on the Royal Naval War Memorial, Clarence Esplanade, Southsea Common, Portsmouth (2015-06-04) by Steve Baker, Historic EnglandHistoric England

England's War Memorials

The public commemoration of war dead did not develop to any great extent in England until the end of the 19th century. The first large scale erection of war memorials dedicated to the ordinary soldier followed the Second Boer War of 1899-1902.

The impact of the First World War resulted in a great age of memorial building. The huge loss of life and the official policy of not repatriating the dead meant that memorials provided the main focus for expressions of grief and remembrance.

It is estimated there are over 100,000 war memorials in the United Kingdom (the precise figure is unknown). They range from familiar crosses, obelisks and statues to less common memorials such as bus shelters, sundials, gardens and park benches. They commemorate individuals, regiments, members of local communities, and school alumni.

This gallery of images from the Historic England Archive illustrates a selection of sculptural and architectural monuments that adorn our public spaces and historic buildings.

Read the List entry for Portsmouth Naval War Memorial

Preston War Memorial, Market Place, Preston, Lancashire (2016-06-21) by Anna Bridson, Historic England ArchiveHistoric England

Preston War Memorial
Preston, Lancashire

Standing in the heart of the city, Preston War Memorial is listed Grade I for its value as a historic structure and for its architectural and artistic significance.

It was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the leading architect of his generation, and was Scott's earliest Classical design. The sculptural work was created by Henry Alfred Pegram, whose other First World War-related work includes a memorial in Norwich to the nurse Edith Cavell, who was executed by the Germans in 1915.

Preston War Memorial was unveiled on 13 June 1926 by Admiral the Earl Jellicoe at a ceremony attended by around 40,000 people. The whole ceremony was amplified and broadcast around the town centre by loud speakers.

Read the List entry for Preston War Memorial

Preston War Memorial, Preston, Lancashire

Otterbourne War Memorial, Main Road, Otterbourne, Hampshire (2015-06-22) by Lucy Millson-Watkins, Historic EnglandHistoric England

Otterbourne War Memorial
Otterbourne, Hampshire

Many of England's war memorials are located adjacent to parish churches and in churchyards. The war memorial at Otterbourne in Hampshire was erected on a triangle of land between the main road through the village and the Church of St Matthew.

The memorial is made of Portland stone and features a Latin cross atop a plinth with decorative scroll brackets. The stepped base features corner columns topped with orbs and has bench seating between.

The memorial's dedication honours those local men who served during the First World War, as well as listing the names of thirty men who were killed.

It was unveiled on 5 December 1920 and was rededicated on 1 November 1987 following its restoration.

Otterbourne War Memorial, Otterbourne, Hampshire

Coventry War Memorial, Kenilworth Road, War Memorial Park , Coventry (2014-08-12) by Steve Baker, English HeritageHistoric England

The War Memorial in War Memorial Park

In 1919 Coventry's City Council invited the local community to form a committee to discuss a war memorial to commemorate those from the city who had lost their lives during the First World War. As Coventry lacked open space, it was decided that the memorial should be a public park, with gardens, sports facilities and a memorial structure at its centre.

The War Memorial was built to designs by local architect Thomas Francis Tickner and overseen by his partner TRJ Meakin following Tickner's death in 1924. It was formally opened on 8 October by Earl Haig, former Commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force during the war.

The War Memorial's design is that of a tower in a bold and dramatic Art Deco style. It is constructed in reinforced concrete and clad in Portland stone. The original octagonal platform was replaced with a circular one in 2011.

Read the List entry for the War Memorial in War Memorial Park

The War Memorial in War Memorial Park, Coventry

Detail of a relief panel on Liverpool Cenotaph, The Plateau, Liverpool (2002-03-20) by Peter Williams, English HeritageHistoric England

Liverpool Cenotaph
The Plateau, Liverpool

Liverpool Cenotaph was designed by local architect Lionel Bailey Budden. Its form is that of an altar-like rectangular block of Stancliffe stone, thirty-five feet (10.7 metres) long.

The design provides a setting and frame for two large low-relief bronze sculptures on each of its long sides. Created by Liverpool-born sculptor Herbert Tyson Smith, one features ranks of marching men of the armed forces representing 'the march to action of the fighting services'. The other, representing the commemoration of Armistice Day, depicts mourners of all ages laying flowers and wreaths at a coffin with war graves in the background.

Liverpool Cenotaph was unveiled on Armistice Day 1930 immediately before the two minutes' silence, with a crowd of approximately 80,000 people in attendance.

Read the List entry for Liverpool Cenotaph

Liverpool Cenotaph, The Plateau, Liverpool

Groups of people at the Liverpool Cotton Assocation memorial, Cotton Exchange, Old Hall Street, Liverpool (1920/1930) by Campbell's Press Studio LtdHistoric England

Liverpool Cotton Association War Memorial
Cotton Exchange, Liverpool

The Liverpool Cotton Association War Memorial features a detailed, life-sized bronze figure of an advancing infantryman, sculpted by Francis Derwent Wood.

The memorial was erected by the Liverpool Cotton Association to mark the sacrifice made by those members who lost their lives in the First World War. Some 2,500 members of the association had enlisted, of whom 358 died.

Unveiled on 5 April 1922, the memorial was originally positioned to the front of the colonnade of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange. The names of the fallen were listed on a large plaque in the colonnade.

When the Exchange was re-modelled, the statue was moved to the building's courtyard. It moved again when the Association relocated to new premises on Exchange Flags.

Read the List entry for the Liverpool Cotton Association War Memorial

Liverpool Cotton Exchange War Memorial, Exchange Flags, Liverpool

Detail of the war memorial at Westfield War Memorial Village, Storey Avenue, Lancaster, Lancashire (2012-04-30) by Alun Bull, English HeritageHistoric England

The war memorial at Westfield War Memorial Village
Lancaster, Lancashire

In 1918 the landscape architect Thomas Heyton Mawson started to gather support for a memorial village in Lancaster. It was to be a permanent testament to those members of the local community killed in the First World War, and to provide accommodation and employment for disabled veterans. Set out as a series of streets radiating out from a central war memorial, Westfield War Memorial Village was formally opened on 24 November 1924.

The central war memorial was was unveiled by General Sir Archibald Hunter on 4 August 1926. Created by sculptor Jennie Delahunt, it depicts a soldier giving a drink to a comrade. The figures were modelled on individual veterans, Private Richard Henry Allen of Rochdale and Captain Jack Ward of Walney Island.

Read the List entry for the war memorial at Westfield War Memorial Village

Westfield War Memorial Village, Lancaster, Lancashire

The Parents' Waiting Room in the War Memorial Building, Harrow School, High Street, Harrow on the Hill, Harrow, Greater London (2011-02-25) by Derek Kendall, English HeritageHistoric England

Harrow School War Memorial Building
Harrow on the Hill, London

A committee was formed in May 1917 to raise funds for a war memorial at Harrow. The architect Sir Herbert Baker produced a design for a shrine and associated building. Work began in 1921 and the completed building was opened by the Prime Minister, the Rt Honourable Stanley Baldwin MP on 3 June 1926.

Pictured here is the room sited above the shrine. It was financed by one of the fund's benefactors, Lady Fitch. Elizabethan panelling and fittings from Brook House in Hackney were used, including an ornate stone fireplace from the reign of Henry V. The teak boards used for the floor were acquired from HMS St Vincent, a warship built at Plymouth in 1815.

644 Old Harovians had been killed during the First World War. One of them was Lady Fitch's son, nineteen-year-old Second Lieutenant Alexander Fitch, who died in France in September 1918. A lamp over his portrait above the fireplace is kept lit in memory of him and all fallen soldiers.

Read the List entry for Harrow School War Memorial Building

Harrow School War Memorial Building, Harrow on the Hill, London

Detail of the Royal Artillery Memorial, Grosvenor Place, Hyde Park Corner, Westminster, Greater London (2015-01-14) by James O Davies, English HeritageHistoric England

Royal Artillery Memorial
Westminster, London

The Royal Regiment of Artillery was the single largest unit in the British Army to serve during the First World War. It suffered 49,076 fatalities during the conflict.

The memorial to the Regiment was created by the sculptor and war veteran Charles Sargeant Jagger, and the architect Lionel Pearson. A representation of a 9.2 inch howitzer sits atop a cruciform stone base with stone friezes depicting scenes of active service. The memorial also includes four bronze figures of artillerymen; the one shown here is a driver wearing a waterproof cape.

The Royal Artillery Memorial received a mixed reception when it was unveiled on 18 October 1925. However, it is now considered to be one of the finest memorials erected anywhere after the First World War.

Read the List entry for the Royal Artillery Memorial

Royal Artillery Memorial, Westminster, London

Three Chelsea Pensioners looking at the War Memorial of the 24th East Surrey Division, Battersea Park, Wandsworth, Greater London (1924/1940) by Campbell's Press Studio LtdHistoric England

War Memorial of the 24th East Surrey Division
Battersea Park, Wandsworth, London

Created by the sculptor Eric Henri Kennington, this Portland stone memorial comprises the representation of three infantrymen standing with a serpent at their feet, presumably symbolising evil in a Christian context. They are placed upon a circular base featuring twenty unit badges.

The memorial commemorates over 10,000 men who were killed or listed 'missing presumed dead' during service with the 24th Division during the First World War.

One of the figures was modelled on the poet and writer Robert Graves, who served with the Welch Fusiliers, and who was severely injured during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and shell-shocked in 1917.

Read the List entry for the War Memorial of the 24th East Surrey Division

War Memorial of the 24th East Surrey Division, Battersea Park, London

The Wagoners' Memorial, Main Street, Sledmere, East Riding of Yorkshire (2015-03-24) by Alun Bull, English HeritageHistoric England

Wagoners' Memorial
Sledmere, East Riding of Yorkshire

Sir Mark Sykes was a Yorkshire landowner, politician and soldier. In 1912 he began to raise the Wagoners Reserve from the men working at farms across the Yorkshire Wold.

The 1,127 men of the Wagoners Reserve Corps received their call-up papers at the outset of the First World War and were sent to units of the Army Service Corps and the Royal Engineers. Their job was to haul materiale to the trenches and supply depots at the front.

In 1918 Sir Mark designed a monument to the Corps to honour the local farm workers who served in the war. It was created by the Italian anarchist sculptor Carlo Domenico Magnoni and mason Alfred Barr.

Read the List entry for the Wagoners' Memorial

Detail of part of a carved frieze on the Wagoners' Memorial, Main Street, Sledmere, East Riding of Yorkshire (2015-03-24) by Alun Bull, English HeritageHistoric England

Wagoners' Memorial
Sledmere, East Riding of Yorkshire

The Wagoners' Memorial comprises a Portland stone drum beneath a conical canopy and four elaborately carved columns.

The central drum is divided into three sections, each featuring detailed carved scenes in relief. Wagoners are shown working in fields, receiving call-up papers and at work on the front.

The scene shown in this detail depicts fearsome-looking German soldiers committing atrocities by torching a church and murdering a defenseless woman.

Wagoners' Memorial, Sledmere, East RIding of Yorkshire

Detail of the memorial to Captain Albert Ball, Nottingham Castle, Castle Road, Nottingham (2007-03-07) by Steve Cole, English HeritageHistoric England

Statue of Captain Albert Ball
Nottingham Castle, Nottingham

Albert Ball was one of the First World War's greatest flying aces. He was described by Manfred von Richthofen, The Red Baron, as ‘by far the best English Flying man’.

Within one year Ball had amassed forty-four confirmed 'kills' with another twenty-five unconfirmed. He was the first man in the war to be awarded three Distinguished Service Orders and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. He died during a combat mission, aged just twenty.

A statue to commemorate him was unveiled in his home city of Nottingham on 8 September 1921. It features a bronze representation of Ball and an allegorical figure of 'Air'. The stone plinth features reliefs of SE5 fighter aircraft, the type he flew on his final, fatal mission.

Read the list entry for the Statue of Captain Albert Ball

Statue of Captain Albert Ball, Nottingham Castle, Nottingham

The ANZAC War Memorial, The Esplanade, Weymouth, Dorset (2008-01-31) by James O Davies, English HeritageHistoric England

ANZAC Memorial
Weymouth, Dorset

The seaside town of Weymouth has several war memorials on its Esplanade, two of which are dedicated to foreign servicemen who passed through the town before heading overseas, or who were shipped to England following active service.

The one illustrated in this photograph commemorates the ANZACS - soldiers of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps. In 1915 200 wounded ANZACS were sent to a camp at Chickerell near Weymouth to convalesce. Many of whom had seen action at Gallipoli in Turkey. By the end of the war, further camps had opened locally and over 105,000 had stayed in the area.

The memorial comprises a triangular obelisk on a square base. The faces are decorated with ANZAC, Australian and New Zealand badges, and on the base are representations of hats and helmets associated with the Corps.

Rather than being an immediate response to the impact of the First World War, the memorial was unveiled on 1 June 2005, the ninetieth anniversary of the arrival of the first ANZACS to Weymouth.

ANZAC Memorial, Weymouth, Dorset

Watford Peace Memorial, The Parade, Watford, Hertfordshire (2014-06-19) by Lucy Millson-Watkins, English HeritageHistoric England

Watford Peace Memorial
Watford, Hertfordshire

Watford Peace Memorial is a simple Portland stone wall with three pedestals supporting figures by the sculptor Mary Pownall Bromet, a former student of Auguste Rodin.

This war memorial is a rarity in that the figures are nudes and it is one of only a few created by a female sculptor.

Bromet had offered plaster figures for a memorial hospital in the town. One figure, titled ‘To the Fallen’ was made in 1914 after attending a casualty’s funeral. ‘To the Wounded’ was made in 1916, followed by ‘Victory’. A public appeal raised funds to have them cast in bronze and these were unveiled on 18 July 1928.

Read the List entry for Watford Peace Memorial

Watford Peace Memorial, Watford, Hertfordshire

The Cenotaph, Whitehall, Westminster, Greater London (1921-06-22) by JWC, Bedford Lemere & CoHistoric England

The Cenotaph
Westminster, London

The Cenotaph in Whitehall is England's most recogniseable war memorial. It is the focal point for the nation on Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday.

The word cenotaph derives from the Greek for an empty tomb. The monument in Whitehall was originally intended to honour the absent dead of the First World War but has evolved into a national shrine to the casualties of the First World War and subsequent conflicts.

Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, one of England's greatest architects, the Cenotaph was erected in time for the Armistice Day parade of 1920. Made of Portland stone it features a tomb chest atop a tall shaft. Its only decoration is in the form of suspended laurels, executed by the sculptor Frances Derwent Wood.

The only words on the Cenotaph are inscribed on the north and south sides of the shaft: THE GLORIOUS DEAD.

Read the List entry for The Cenotaph

The Cenotaph, Westminster, London

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