By Michael Gordon, Project Assistant

The 16th and 17th of May this year mark the 70th Anniversary of Operation Chastise, better known as the “Dambusters” raids. These raids saw 19 modified Avro Lancaster bombers of 617 Squadron embark on a daring mission to destroy the dams within the Ruhr valley, in an attempt to cripple German industry.

Derwent Dam today (14270 and 14271 ©IWM, 2012)

Derwent Dam today (14270 and 14271 ©IWM, 2012)

617 Squadron was formed for the specific purposes of this mission and was equipped with a bespoke weapon, the now famous Bouncing Bomb codenamed ‘Upkeep’, designed by Barnes Wallis. This highly specialised mission required training and preparation unlike anything the crews had previously experienced. To prepare, the crews were sent to practise their technique at suitable locations within the UK.

Although the crews did not know the specifics of their mission during the training phases, it was quite obvious that they had been selected for a unique task due to the very specific topography of the practice locations. The crews were sent to four different locations to practise low level flying over water and precision targeting. We have recorded three memorials to these events which are located on the practice sites.

Eyebrook Reservoir in Stoke Dry, Rutland was mocked up with canvas towers to resemble the profile of the German targets. It was also used beyond the raids for further training with the ‘Upkeep’ bomb. A plaque at the site commemorates the reservoir’s importance in preparing the crews for the raids on the Mohne and Eder dams in Germany.

617 Squadron, Derwent Dam (14270 and 14271 ©Roy Branson, 2010)

617 Squadron, Derwent Dam (14270 and 14271 ©Roy Branson, 2010)

At Derwent Dam (14270) in Derbyshire, chosen because of its close resemblance to the Ruhr dams, there is a stone tablet inside the gatehouse recording the use of the dam by 617 Squadron.  In 1988, a further tablet was added, commemorating those who died during the raid. In 2008, a 65th Anniversary event was held at the Derwent Dam, involving a flypast by a Lancaster from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, which made low level passes over the dam at 100ft.

The exploits of 617 Squadron during Operation Chastise inspired their famous title of the Dambusters, and earned them a reputation as a precision bombing squadron for future operations.

The names of the 204 men of the Squadron who died in raids during the Second World War are inscribed upon the memorial wall to the Squadron at Royal Gardens, Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire. The wall has been purposely shaped to resemble a dam.

617 Squadron, Woodhall Spa (20485 ©Rachel Farrand, 2012)

617 Squadron, Woodhall Spa (20485 ©Rachel Farrand, 2012)

by Frances Casey, Project Manager

Yesterday, veterans of the Arctic Convoy were presented with the newly issued Arctic Star, awarded in recognition of their bravery during the campaign to carry military supplies to Russia during the Second World War. The presentation ceremony took place at the memorial at Loch Ewe in Wester Ross, Scotland, with over 30 of the surviving veterans in attendance. Loch Ewe was the place of departure for many of the ships that took part in what is recognised as one of the most arduous campaigns of the Second World War.

We have recorded 17 memorials which commemorate the Arctic Convoy. These include the ship’s bell from HMS Cassandra, which was presented to the D Day Museum in Portsmouth in 1999. The bell is mounted above a plaque which is inscribed with the names of the 62 crew who died when HMS Cassandra was torpedoed 11th December 1944, shortly after the ship left Murmansk on the return leg of her journey.

The Fleet Air Arm memorial, which is a sculpture of the figure of Daedalus, also commemorates the Arctic Convey and the role the Fleet Air Arm took in supporting Convoy ships, 1941-45. The Arctic Convoy is also commemorated in the Queen Elizabeth High School Book of Remembrance in Hexham, by the Ensign of HMS Bellona and by the Arctic Convoy Stone of Remembrance in Lyness, Orkney, another site of departure for the ships.

Arctic Convoy (44550, ©Russian Convoy Club, 2000)

Arctic Convoy Memorial, Loch Ewe (44550, ©Russian Convoy Club, 2000)

By Richard Graham, Office Volunteer

Looking at war memorials, especially in small communities, I am often struck when the same family name recurs. Might they be brothers, or cousins, or even father and son? Local research, aided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, can often provide answers and it is encouraging to see the number of local booklets published in recent years to honour the fallen of their communities.

St Andrews Church, Penrith (IWM 3064 ©Jean Norris, 1998)

St Andrews Church, Penrith (IWM 3064 ©Jean Norris, 1998)

After 14 years volunteering for IWM’s War Memorials Archive (formerly UKNIWM), I am almost convinced there is no war memorial which can correctly be described as unique.

The other day though I was updating the record for the Men of Penrith, in Cumbria and came across thirteen instances where there was a forename followed by ‘and’, and either one or two further names followed by the family surname, eg ‘Ronald and Thomas Richardson.’ covering two lines, but distinguished from the next entry, another Thomas Richardson.

Does anyone know of any other community memorial on which the names of relatives are shown this way?

Historic Scotland have recently produced a short guide entitled The Repair and Maintenance of War Memorials.

This is a free guide which gives custodians valuable information about the environmental risks to war memorials and the types of materials used to maintain them. It also makes recommendations for the most appropriate courses of action for maintenance and conservation. 

Along with this guide, you can also seek expert advice on any matters relating to conservation of war memorials from War Memorials Trust, which is the UK advisory body for the conservation and restoration of war memorials.

 

By Frances Casey, Project Manager

Ten years ago this month, the UK mobilised 45,000 troops and combined forces with the United States, Australia and Poland in an invasion of Iraq which sought to depose the Ba’athist government of Saddam Hussein. On 20th March 2003, following an air-strike on the Iraqi Presidential Palace the previous day, coalition troops entered Iraq by land and water. The invasion was named ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ by the United States. The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) assigned it the computer generated name of ‘Operation TELIC’. This followed MOD policy to allocate non-political names to operations.

Today, the invasion and subsequent conflict is commonly known as the Iraq War. For UK forces, the war lasted for 6 years and 2 months, with UK combatant troops withdrawing on 22nd May 2009, whilst US troops withdrew later, on 18th December 2011. The war deployed 15,000 more UK troops than the 30,000 involved in the Falklands War and the UK suffered 179 service personnel casualties over the period of the war.

Glenrothes civic memorial includes Iraq War casualties, Glenrothes (IWM 56533 ©Mark Imber)

To date, we have recorded 76 memorials commemorating the Iraq War. These include new memorials that have been created for the purpose, such as a memorial erected in memory of Black Watch casualties at Balhousie Castle and a stone of remembrance to six members of 849 Aircrew who were killed when two Royal Navy Sea King helicopters collided on 22nd March 2003. Both of these memorials were erected in the UK during the war.

The names of Iraq War casualties have also been added to existing war memorials, including those in Workington, Cumbria; East Cowick, Yorkshire; Warrington, Cheshire; and Bridgend, Wales. A new civic memorial of six standing stones has been erected in Glenrothes, Scotland which includes the names of two casualties from Iraq. The town of Glenrothes was established in 1948 and the memorial is the first commemoration for casualties of the town.  

Specific units have created new memorials or added the names of Iraq casualties to existing memorials. Casualties have been added to the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit memorial in Warwickshire and in Edinburgh, the regimental memorial to the 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys) lists the names of casualties of the regiment from the Boer War (1899-1902) to the Iraq War (2003-2009).

Civilian casualties of the Iraq War are also commemorated by memorials. In St Brides Church, Fleet Street, in London there is a memorial to the 18 journalists ‘who lost their lives while covering the war in Iraq AD 2003’. The roles listed on the memorial include cameramen, translators, a sound recordist and news correspondents. Amongst those named is ITN Middle East Correspondent Terry Lloyd, who was shot by US forces on 22nd March 2003, as he reported on the invasion.   

Memorial to UK service personnel killed in Iraq Operation TELIC, National Memorial Arboretum (IWM 59914, ©IWM 2011)

The national memorial to UK Service casualties of the Iraq War was unveiled in the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire on 11th March 2010. This memorial takes the form of a wall mounted with 179 plaques with the name, regiment, date of death and age of each of the UK Service personnel and the one MOD civilian that died.

The original memorial wall was built in 2006 by troops stationed in Iraq, and had stood outside the HQ of Multi-National Division (South East) in Basra airbase. During the war, the wall and the plaques were a focus for remembrance for those serving. As discussions took place in 2008-9 to withdraw troops from Iraq, securing the future of the memorial was a concern for both families and troops, and it was decided to dismantle the wall when the troops withdrew. The bricks used for the original wall were found to be too soft for the UK climate, so a new memorial was devised which used the original bricks as the foundation and core of a memorial wall enclosed by marble.

The wall commemorates those Iraq War personnel who died as a result of accident or illness as well as those who died in the direct line of fire. It also lists members of the Coalition Forces who were killed whilst under UK command during the six years of conflict.

Ten years on, and number of memorials to the Iraq War is likely to increase. New memorials to casualties of the war are still being erected and the names of casualties continue to be added to existing community and regimental memorials. 

Capt A Ridgway portrait window (IWM 42896, 2000)by Ashley Garber, Project Assistant

By Ashley Garber, Project Assistant.

We recently received an inquiry asking us how rare it is for the portrait of an individual casualty to be memorialised in a stained glass window. Whilst the names of the fallen usually serve as the focus for commemoration on memorials, some memorials do include a portrait of the dead, and stained glass windows are particularly expressive examples of this.

Portrait windows would have been very expensive, and only a few families would have been able to afford the cost of such a memorial. Even so, we have recorded 11 definite examples.

These include a window in St Peters Church, Oughtrington, Cheshire, which depicts Captain Althorp Ridgway, who died 12th May 1915. Ridgway is dressed in the armour of a medieval knight and his portrait actually appears twice in the window: as the face of the more prominent standing knight, and also in profile as the kneeling knight below. Local lore claims that the artist, Archibald K Nicholson, not having met Ridgway, relied on a photograph of him in order to complete these portraits.

Wilson brothers window (©IWM)

The Wilson brothers memorial window in St Andrews Church, Chippenham, Wiltshire is a poignant family portrait.

All three brothers – Herbert Raymond, Evelyn Seppings, and Geoffrey Mervyn Underhill – were killed in the First World War. They appear in uniform in the window, yet they do not constitute the focus, which is dominated by Archangels and scenes of war, regimental devices and references to Flanders.

Instead, the portraits appear in the background in the far left light, behind the figure of a grieving woman, which may be their mother.

The medium of portrait windows allows an opportunity to define relationships visually in a way that other memorial types cannot.

East window, Church Norton, Chichester (©The Friends of St Wilfrids Church Norton, 2006)

An example of this is the East window in St Wilfrids Chapel in Church Norton, Chichester. This window was commissioned by Captain Maurice Wingfield, owner of the nearby Norton Priory, and commemorates, in portraiture, his wife Stephanie Agnes, who died in 1918; his brother Captain John Wingfield, who died of wounds 29th April 1915; and his close friend, Captain the Honourable Thomas Agar-Roberts MP, who died on 30th September 1915, also of wounds.

Both men appear dressed in armour in the window and Stephanie Agnes is depicted as the Agnes Dei.

by Irene Glausiusz, Office Volunteer

Yesterday, athletes of TeamGB Olympic and Paralympic teams took part in a parade through London to mark their achievements in the recent games and also to mark the end of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

Munich Olympics 1972 (©Hackney Gazette, 2012)

During this same games, after a span of forty years, or in other terms 10 Olympic Games, a memorial plaque was erected to the 11 Israeli Olympians who were kidnapped and later killed by the Palestinian terrorist group, Black September, during the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The plaque is mounted on an outside wall at the Arthaus in Hackney and the unveiling took place in the week prior to the opening of the London 2012 Olympics. The dedicatory inscription names all 11 athletes killed and includes weight-lifters, referees and coaches.

London Mayor, Boris Johnson, together with other invited guests, jointly unveiled the plaque, which was draped by both the flag of Israel and the Union flag. The Mayor said “It is entirely right that we should remember those events and let us hope that the 2012 Olympic Games are only happy and peaceful.” Eric Pickles MP Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government also spoke.

The relatives of the athletes had asked the International Olympic Committee to hold one minute’s silence in memory of the athletes at the opening ceremony of the games, but President Jacques Rogge felt that it would be inappropriate and refused the request.

Large portraits of the 11 athletes were displayed along a hallway at the Guildhall in London where a commemorative service took place on 6th August attended by Prime Minister David Cameron and Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband.

It is a fact that there are Munich memorials at various Jewish centres worldwide. One interesting example is an abstract sculpture at the Jewish Community Campus in Rockland County USA. Created in stainless steel, it symbolises an eternal flame in the spirit of the Olympics; the base divided into 11 segments, inscribed with each of the athlete’s names. However, Martin Sugarman, Chair of the Anglo-Israel Friendship Association maintains that the London memorial is a “first” to the Munich athletes to be sited on a public building in the UK.

The Munich Olympic memorial project was spearheaded by Hackney Cllr Linda Kelly and Martin Sugarman. They also raised funds for the unveiling ceremony. The Hackney location is appropriate as one of the boroughs closest to the London 2012 Olympic Village.

By Richard Graham, Office Volunteer

Thirty years ago this month the Falkland Islands were invaded by Argentine forces. The Falkland Islands were a British Dependent Territory, and had been under British care since 1833, the UK responded with military action. This conflict led to the deaths of 255 men of the UK Task Force, three female civilian Islanders killed by ‘friendly fire’ and 649 Argentinians, before the surrender of Argentine forces in June 1982.

 Since 1915 government policy, with very few exceptions, had been that there should be no repatriation to the UK of those who fell in war. This was for both hygienic and logistical reasons, reinforced after the Armistice by the principle of equality of sacrifice, i.e. that the wealthy should not be able to repatriate while the poor could not. The lack of a grave at home at which to mourn had led to the great number of war memorials created after 1918.

Falklands Memorial Chapel (ukniwm 12815, Terry Nicolson)

Following the Falklands conflict however, requests were made by some of the bereaved families for the return of their sons and this was permitted. Most of the British Falklands dead have no grave but the sea, but, of those whose remains were recovered, 65 were repatriated, while 16 remain on the Falklands: 14 are buried at Blue Beach Cemetery at San Carlos on East Falkland, and two in isolated graves on West Falkland. The three women civilians were buried at Port Stanley, while 237 Argentines lie in the Argentine Military Cemetery on East Falkland.

Since 1982, of course, it has become customary to repatriate military casualties, and the reception of the casualties of Iraq (2003-2009) and Afghanistan began to take place at Wootton Bassett (now Royal Wootton Bassett) in Wiltshire, a tradition now carried on for casualties of Afghanistan in Carterton in Oxfordshire. 

UKNIWM has so far recorded 355 Falklands memorials on its database, among them the Falklands Memorial Chapel at Pangbourne College in Berkshire and the Falklands Merchant Navy memorial on Tower Hill in London.

 

By Frances Casey, Project Manager

One lesser known fact is that the UK National Inventory of War Memorials  records memorials to those who died whilst in active service as a result of accident or disease as ‘non-combat’ deaths. One such case of note is that of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, who died one hundred years ago today on 29th March 1912, whilst attempting to return from the South Pole during his British Antarctic Expedition.

Captain Robert Falcon Scott and the Antarctic Expeditionary Team (©ukniwm, 2011)

The expedition, also known as the Terra Nova Expedition, named after the ship in which the party sailed, was a private venture for which Scott was responsible.

In 1909, released on half-pay from his position as naval assistant to the Second Sea Lord, Scott began to plan and then took command of the expedition, which he intended to be the first to reach the South Pole.

On 1st November 1911, the party set off, yet the five-man team that eventually succeeded in reaching the Pole on 18th January 1912 were disappointed to find that the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had been there before them. Returning home, they faced severe weather conditions, scant rations and failing health.

Captain Scott was on active service in the Royal Navy when he died, weakened by hunger and unable to proceed due to blizzard conditions, and that is why, despite the fact that he did not die in war or conflict, we include memorials that commemorate his death. Of his four companions, all of whom perished, three were in service at the time of their deaths.

Captain Lawrence E G Oates is listed in the Army List (1913) as previously employed with the British Antarctic Expedition since 1910 and in ‘Special extra-Regimental employment’ (29 March 1910). Oates, an officer with the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons, saw action in the Second Boer War, during which time he received a wound to his leg.

On the return journey from the South Pole, Oates suffered severe frostbite to his feet and his old wound was aggravated by this condition. Fearing that his ill health was a burden on the other members of the party and would slow their progress, on 16th March 1912, he left the tent in which they were sheltering with the words, recorded by Scott in his diary, “I am just going outside and may be some time”. Captain Oates is thought to have died on 17th March 1912, the date of his 32nd birthday. Memorials to Oates include one erected this year, on the anniversary of both his birth and death, on the wall of his family home in Meanwoodside (now Meanwood Park), Leeds.

Plaque to the Antarctic Expeditionary Team (©ukniwm, 2011)

Lieutenant Henry Robinson Bowers, who played a key role in navigating the team to the Pole, was serving with the Royal Navy and Royal Indian Marine at the time of his death, which is also thought to be around the 29th March 1912. Edgar Evans, who died on 17th February 1912, was a Petty Officer in the Royal Navy. The only civilian in the ill-fated return party was Dr Edward Adrian Wilson, who, as well as acting as the party’s medical doctor, was a talented artist and naturalist. Wilson’s paintings survived the expedition and show the wildlife encountered as well as portraits of members of the party battling the elements.

The most striking memorial to Scott is perhaps that which shows him in Arctic weather clothing. Sculpted by his widow, Lady Scott, a professional sculptress, it was commissioned and paid for by officers of the Royal Navy and is in memory of all five members of the expedition who died. Lady Scott also sculpted the memorial to Dr Edward Wilson in his home town of Cheltenham, which we have not recorded in the Inventory due to Wilson’s civilian, non-war related status.

Other notable non-combat death memorials are to Captain Cook , who was killed in Hawaii in 1779 whilst conducting an exploration of the Northern Pacific, Captain Francis Crozier, who is thought to have died in 1848 when attempting to return from the 1845 expedition with Sir John Franklin in search of the North-West passage, and Major General Henry Havelock who died in 1857 of dysentery contracted during the Indian Mutiny (1857-58).

 

by Irene Glausiusz, Office Volunteer

‘Many war memorials commemorate people who have died’ said Rabbi Dr Abraham Levy, Head of the Spanish & Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, when he spoke at City Hall in London during the recent 2012 Holocaust Memorial Day event, hosted by Mayor of London Boris Johnson. What is different about the monument in the Bulgarian town of Plovdiv, Rabbi Levy observed, is that it is dedicated to those that ‘Did Live!’.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2012, City Hall, Anita Lasker-Wallfish calls for individuals to 'Speak up, Speak out'.

On 10th March 1943 the Jewish residents of Plovdiv were to be deported to the Nazi death camps, but an official from the Greek Orthodox hierarchy protested.  Lo and behold, deportation was cancelled and the people were told to go home.  In 1998 a marble pillar was raised to remember this event and sited on the very spot from which deportation had been scheduled.  Tragedy was averted because someone did ‘Speak Up, Speak Out’. It was this call to action that formed the theme of this year’s event.

A few of those who were spared, now in their eighties and nineties, are still living in Plovdiv in a retirement home. The keynote speaker, 84 year old Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, was arrested by the Nazis after it was discovered she was forging documents for prisoners of war. 

She was taken to Auschwitz and in all likelihood would have been killed, but her life was spared because she was an accomplished cellist and the camp orchestra needed one. To this day, she cannot imagine how it was that she survived.  Subsequently transported from Auschwitz to Bergen Belsen, she felt her life was ebbing away until miraculously, just in time, the camp was liberated by the British Army. She made the point that ‘Genocides arise when despots seek land or power. The victims had neither.’

Anita Lasker-Wallfisch said that sometimes TV viewers are warned about sights they might prefer not to watch.  Her contention was ‘Don’t look away.  You should know what is happening in war zones even now in the 21st Century.’ Later, Anita’s grandson Abraham gave a short cello recital which echoed his family’s musical virtuosity.

Testimonies were given by young people who had visited Auschwitz, sponsored by the Holocaust Educational Trust.  They would never forget the experience which opened their eyes to the evils of anti-Semitism, racism and prejudice, which regrettably are still prevalent in today’s society linked to hatred and discrimination.

Plovdiv Monument of Gratitude, 2012

Boris Johnson, addressing the gathering, said ‘This event is our chance to remember lives lost, as well as the remarkable resilience of survivors and everyone affected by one of the darkest periods in human history’.

 The Plovdiv memorial is named Monument of Gratitude and the dedicatory inscription in Hebrew is: To the memory of the man who assisted in the saving of the Jews of Plovdiv on 10th March 1943. The English inscription reads: To all who helped to save us on 10th March 1943, from the grateful Jewish community of Plovdiv.