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