By Frances Casey, Project Manager

We are often asked whether it is possible for someone to be named on more than one war memorial. The answer is yes. For my last blog, I want to give the example of Lt Lionel Pilkington Abbott, who was killed during the battle of the Somme on 14th July 1916.

Lt Lionel Pilkington Abbott, Leicestershire Regiment, 1915 (Courtesy of Hugh Parker)

Lt Lionel Pilkington Abbott, Leicestershire Regiment, 1915 (Courtesy of Hugh Parker)

Unlike memorials erected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the majority of memorials in UK towns and villages were erected by local communities, with the funding, construction, design and names collection overseen by a locally appointed committee.

We have found Lt Lionel Pilkington Abbott commemorated on seven different memorials. These include the memorial cross on the village green in Corby Glen, Lincolnshire, which is the village in which he grew up. The Corby Glen memorial was funded by public subscription and commemorates the men of the village with the names arranged by Regiment. Lionel is listed under the Leicestershire Regiment. The cross was unveiled on 13th December 1920 by the Reverend A. Abbott, who was Lionel’s father.

Rev Abbott was vicar of the nearby St John the Evangelist Church. Inside the church can be found a memorial erected to Lionel by his parents. This takes the form of a plaque and the dedication details include Lionel’s rank, regiment, age, place and date of death. Unlike the Corby Glen village memorial, the plaque is a personal dedication to Lionel designed and funded by his family.

Lionel (second right), Exeter College rowing team, 1906 (Courtesy of Hugh Parker)

Lionel (second right), Exeter College rowing team, 1906 (Courtesy of Hugh Parker)

The plaque refers to Lionel’s education and degree at Exeter College, Oxford, which is where we find another memorial commemorating Lionel. The Exeter College memorial is to old scholars killed in the First World War and the names are arranged by the date of matriculation. Lionel is commemorated under the year 1907 along with nine other students of his year.

Lionel is also commemorated in the Leicestershire Regiment Book of Remembrance in Leicester Cathedral , the Matthew Humberston Foundation School memorial and the memorial in King’s School, Canterbury .

Each memorial remembers Lionel in a different way and for a different reason, whether as a resident of the village, a son, a scholar or as serving in a regiment. It is for this reason that the same person can be commemorated on more than one memorial, because memorials commemorate many different social groups. You will find all ranks commemorated on memorials in schools, businesses, towns and villages not only officers or the more wealthy. First World War memorials remember people in all of their variety and as such are testaments to the loss felt in many areas of social life.

By Frances Casey, Project Manager

This summer, be sure to look out for Royal Mail’s First World War Centenary stamp edition. Every year, from 2014 to 2018, six stamps will be issued to commemorate the First World War, creating a set of 30 stamps by the end of the Centenary.

In 2014, we worked closely with Royal Mail to select a war memorial commemorative stamp which would mark the events of 100 years ago. The memorial chosen is ‘The Response, 1914’, by Sir William Goscombe John, which is in Newcastle upon Tyne.

The Great War 1914-1918 Special Stamps, Royal Mail

The Great War 1914-1918 Special Stamps, Royal Mail

This memorial shows local men cheerfully taking leave of their families as they respond to the call to war in 1914. It was erected in 1923 by Sir George and Lady Renwick to commemorate the raising of the volunteer battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers at the beginning of the war. Unveiled by the Prince of Wales, the figures on the memorial show the initial jubilant and confident response to the outbreak of the war. Unusually, the purpose of the memorial is threefold: as well as commemorating the local volunteers of 1914, the memorial is also a thanksgiving from the Renwicks for the safe return from the war of their five sons and marks Sir George’s 50 years of commercial life in Newcastle.

Other 2014 stamps that IWM and Royal Mail selected include a quotation from Laurence Binyon’s, ‘For the Fallen’, a poem that he composed in 1914, and a detail from the painting ‘A Star Shell’ by C. R. W. Nevinson, which is in the collection of Tate Britain. Look out for this first set which will be available from 18th of July.

By Frances Casey, Project Manager

 Among five memorial plaques to former pupils killed in the First World War in Sedbergh School Chapel, Cumbria, is one to Wilfred Spencer Ellis MC who died 26th March 1922 after a long illness resulting from the war 1914-1918, aged 34, being three times wounded whilst serving in France and Macedonia’ 

French and British wounded having their wounds dressed at No.29 Casualty Clearing Station, Gezaincourt, 27 April 1918. (IWM  © IWM (Q 8735)

French and British wounded having their wounds dressed at No.29 Casualty Clearing Station, Gezaincourt, 27 April 1918. (IWM © IWM (Q 8735)

We have found that commemorations of those who died of the effects of war after the Armistice of 1918 are not unusual, and that those who never fully recovered from their war service are frequently commemorated alongside those who died fighting during the war.

On the memorial to Belle Vue Zoological Gardens’ staff in Gorton, Manchester, the inscription distinguishes between those ‘killed in active service’ and those who ‘died from effects of war’. Six members of staff are recorded as dying as a result of the effects of their war service, including Private Bernard A Hastain of the Rifle Brigade, a scene painter of patriotic firework spectacles at Belle Vue, who died of the effects of his wounds in the 1930s.

There is no strict rule which dictates that only those who died during wartime are commemorated on war memorials and there is no cut-off date. The names on the Balmaclellan memorial in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, are listed by year of death. The last First World War name on the memorial is that of Private W. Campbell of the Cameron Highlanders, whose date of death is recorded as 27 April 1925. The names on this memorial cover a ten year period of casualties from 1915 to 1925.

Balmaclellan war memorial with dates of death (IWM WMA 5865, ©Paul Goodwin)

Balmaclellan war memorial with dates of death (IWM WMA 5865, ©Paul Goodwin)

Memorials also show us that it was not only serious wounds that shortened the lives of the survivors of the First World War. In St Margarets, East Hertfordshire, a plaque in the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary commemorates Philip Reginald Croft who ‘died February 25th 1923 in Jamaica of heart disease contracted while serving overseas with the 4th East Anglian Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, during the Great War’. Nurses too, found that their war service profoundly weakened their health. The memorial to Sister Grace Evans in Eglwys St Tysilio, Cwmtydu, Wales, records that she ‘died at Johannesburg November 16th 1930, as a result of war services in East Africa during the Great War, 1914-1918’ .

Significantly, it was often veterans of the war, many of whom had sustained grievous injuries, who were invited to unveil war memorials. In 1921 at Stalybridge in Greater Manchester, Pte Joseph Lowden, who was blinded in the war, laid the first wreath on the memorial at the unveiling ceremony. Over 40 years later in 1963, an inquest at Stalybridge was told that his death at the age of 78 was ‘partly attributed to war injuries’ as he had ‘little bits of shrapnel scattered about his lungs’, a legacy of his war service 47 years earlier (Stalybridge Reporter, 4 March 1963).


By Irene Glausiusz, Office Volunteer

What is interesting about the tiny village of Hewas Water, more of a hamlet really, positioned three miles west of St Austell in Cornwall?

Firstly, there was the Victory Hall, known locally as The Institute, built by voluntary labour in 1920 it was intended as a memorial to commemorate the end of the First World War. The land was donated by local gentry, the Johnstone Family from the Trewithen Estate at nearby Grampound. Now that we are approaching the one-hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, it seems appropriate that the Victory Hall is not forgotten and is rightfully included in IWM’s War Memorials Archive.

Looking back, the Institute was a popular venue for darts, billiards, table tennis, and whist drives to keep people entertained. There wasn’t that much to do in Hewas Water with no pub, just one shop and a bakery for bread, saffron cake and Cornish pasties. Oh yes, the bakery had a telephone – for emergencies! Few people had a phone, so the need to make a call was hardly a priority. Even the Paramor Chapel for worship and Sunday School was a couple of miles away.

Victory Hall, Hewas Water (IWM WMA 62836 ©Derek Ryder 2013)

Victory Hall, Hewas Water (IWM WMA 62836 ©Derek Ryder 2013)

Secondly, and hence my interest in Hewas Water, my sister and I aged 9 and 3 respectively along with dozens of other kids from Hackney in east London were evacuated there in 1940 – a place of safety to escape the bombing. We knew nothing of rural life but we soon adjusted to the situation, making visits to the village pump which supplied water for drinking and cooking. What no running water? Don’t ask. 

We walked some distance every day, back and forth come rain or shine, to Lower Sticker Board School. With only three classes, children just slotted into their approximate age group. We remember being taken to the Victory Hall for special social events and concerts, where best dresses were de rigeur.

Halls or Institutes were popular as war memorials after the First World War as they offered people a place to engage and build a sense of community. To date we have recorded 692 war memorial halls or institutes. In the case of the Victory Hall, it became less frequented with the advent of television and more accessible transport during the 1960’s and subsequently it has been converted for commercial use. The school and chapel closed and are now private residences. Happily, the Johnstone’s family estate – they who donated the land for the Victory Hall – continues at Trewithen.

Due to people’s changing needs and environment, it is important for us to record memorials which are subject to change like halls or hospitals to ensure that their identity and the intention behind them is not lost to people today.

Footnote: The historical context of the Victory Hall became known to me when my daughter Josie, a New York based journalist, decided to research my early evacuation days.

By Michael Gordon, Project Assistant

Monday marked the 208th Anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, when Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson led the Royal Navy to victory over a combined French and Spanish fleet on 21st October 1805. This momentous event settled the fears of invasion and assured Britain would “rule the waves” for years to come. As the battle commenced, Vice-Admiral Nelson gave the signal from HMS Victory that ‘England expects that every man will do his duty’. Nelson was killed during the battle, mortally wounded by a French sniper.

Bas relief of the death of Nelson, Nelson's Column, London (IWM WMA 11551, ©IWM)

Bas relief of the death of Nelson, Nelson’s Column, London (IWM WMA 11551, ©IWM)

We have recorded 36 memorials which commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar. Most of these are to individual commissioned officers and 19 are to Vice-Admiral Nelson himself.

At the time, memorials would have been the preserve of the wealthy and so only the families of commissioned officers were likely to be able to afford them. However, many of the memorials to the officers of the Battle of Trafalgar were funded by public as well as private subscription, reflecting the national hero status of participants of the battle.

Publicly funded memorials include those to Captain George Duff and Captain John Cooke , both in St Paul’s Cathedral, and Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, which has a bronze bas-relief depicting the death of Nelson on the plinth and a statue of Nelson on the column above. In Liverpool, a figurative memorial of Nelson receiving four naval crowns before death was erected by public donation and includes his quote encouraging duty.  Other ranks were rarely commemorated at this time, and only then in the form of a numerical casualty figure.

Memorials to individual officers give us an interesting insight into pre-First World War public perception and attitude towards the glory of dying for one’s country, and in particular the esteem given to participants of the Battle of Trafalgar. This is evident from dedications that describe how the individual heroically fought and died in the pursuit of honour, some going in to detailed and enthusiastic narrative.

Tablet in St Clements Church, Leigh on Sea (IWM WMA 22546 ©Keith Charmock)

Tablet in St Clements Church, Leigh on Sea (IWM WMA 22546 ©Keith Charmock)

One memorial, erected on the centenary of the battle in 1905, is a stone tablet in St Clements Church, Leigh on Sea, which honours Captain W H Brand who served onboard HMS Revenge as a Midshipman and who ‘was one of those who, in the momentous Battle of 21st October 1805, so amply satisfied their country that they had done their duty.’

Captain Brand survived the battle and for a further ten years he ’bore a gallant part in many dangerous engagements and enterprises, distinguishing himself by devotion to duty, daring and seamanship worthy of England’s naval traditions.’ 

The tablet also honours his brother, Lieutenant George Rowley Brand, who lost his life in 1806 while commanding HMS Unique. According to the inscription, he died ‘under circumstances publicly recognised as of heroic gallantry, going down on H.M.S. Unique, which he commanded with colours flying and himself covered with twenty severe wounds.’

by Frances Casey, Project Manager

This week, IWM’s War Memorials Archive recorded war memorial reference number 65,000, which is a seat commemorating Sergeant Nigel Coupe, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2012.

We began recording UK war memorials in 1989 as the UK National Inventory of War Memorials, prompted by concern that there was no national record of UK war memorials. Initially, this was to be a three year project, and in an early ‘crowd sourcing’ exercise, volunteers filled in recording forms with the location, type, history and names on war memorials. No one imagined how popular this would be, nor how mammoth the task!

We record memorials to all wars, and to date we have 97 wars represented. Currently, of the 65,000 memorials that we have recorded, 42,684 commemorate the First World War. 23,591 are to the Second World War, with an additional 883 to Second World War civilians. The reason the figures given for these wars amount to more than 65,000 is because war memorials often record more than one war.

Memorial seat to Sgt Nigel Coupe (IWM WMA 65000, ©Mike Coyle, 2013)

Memorial seat to Sgt Nigel Coupe (IWM WMA 65000, ©Mike Coyle, 2013)

Our records show the variety of memorials and the different ways people remember war and loss. Types range from monumental figures, crosses, obelisks and plaques to hospital wings, a bed of 10,000 daffodils, a stuffed dog , a chess set and quite a number of hearing aid loops.

Stories are very often sad with some First World War families losing all their sons, but some memorials tell of daring deeds and VCs won. One very British memorial proudly remembers the supply of cups of tea to 134,864 servicemen at Dingwall railway station between 1915 and 1919.

The names of First and Second World War casualties are still added to memorials as omissions are found. There are retrospective memorials to events rediscovered by research, such as to remote air crashes of the Second World War. More recent memorials to Iraq and Afghanistan are also recorded, as with that of Sergeant Coupe which is a personal commemoration from his family.

At first, it was estimated that there were around 25,000 UK war memorials. 24 years later we have reached 65,000, with an estimated total of 100,000. Contributions of research have been received from across the UK from volunteers, the public and other institutions and many anoraks have been worn out over the years in pursuit of information for the archive.

In contributing to our records, people have ensured that war memorials and those they commemorate are not forgotten. You can search our records online.

By Frances Casey, Project Manager

Seventy four years ago this week, at 11.15 a.m. on 3rd September 1939, the Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain broadcast a statement to the nation which announced that Britain was at war with Germany. At the War Memorials Archive we have recorded 23,551 memorials in the UK which commemorate the Second World War of 1939-45, and 880 more memorials which are specifically to civilians of that war.

Amongst those that we have recorded, there is one memorial which is unlike any other: ‘The Angel of Peace’, a plaster bas-relief of a kneeling angel, gives thanks for the peace achieved by Chamberlain as a result of his visit to Munich in 1938 and also refers to the birth of his grand-daughter.

A typed label attached to the reverse of the memorial reads: ‘A Thankoffering made by Miss Agatha Walker under the inspiration of the visit of the Prime Minister (Mr. Neville Chamberlain) to Munich in September 1938. Given to Mrs. Carnegie* for his grand-daughter Anne Mary Lloyd born in that month’

The Angel of Peace Tablet, September 1938 (IWM WMA 63989 ©Maggs Bros Ltd)

The Angel of Peace Tablet, September 1938 (IWM WMA 63989 ©Maggs Bros Ltd)

Chamberlain’s visit to Munich in September of 1938 resulted in the Munich Agreement whereby parts of Czechoslovakia were annexed by Germany, an act that Chamberlain believed would satisfy Germany’s desires for territorial expansion. The agreement has since been seen as an act of appeasement. However, in his declaration of war made a year later, following Germany’s invasion of Poland, Chamberlain expressed his personal disappointment that his efforts for peace had failed:

‘You can imagine what a bitter blow it is to me that all my long struggle to win peace has failed. Yet I cannot believe that there is anything more or anything different that I could have done and that would have been more successful.’

As a memorial to Neville Chamberlain’s peacemaking, the Angel of Peace is the earliest memorial we have recorded that can be associated with the Second World War. It is also a memorial to a hope of peace that was short-lived, as well as a personal family celebration of the birth of Chamberlain’s grand-daughter. Agatha Walker was a sculptor and pottery figure artist, and the likelihood is that she made the tablet herself.

*Mrs Carnegie was Neville Chamberlain’s step-mother