IWM’s War Memorials Archive has recorded 65,000 UK war memorials

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.

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