Construction and Dedication of the WW1 Memorial

Introduction

UK and Commonwealth Merchant Navy and fishing fleet losses in WW1 were very heavy and estimated at 15,500. Of these, 12,000 had no known graves and after the war it was decided to commemorate them on a memorial. Trinity Square Gardens was chosen as the site and work started on the memorial in 1927 and it was unveiled by Her Majesty Queen Mary on 12 December 1928. The land on which the memorial stands was "acquired in perpetuity" by an Act of Parliament for the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission.

This page is about the construction and dedication of the memorial. Click HERE to see images of the memorial and lists of those commemorated on it. Click HERE for information about the site before the construction of the WW1 Memorial.

Memorial from the Tower
View of the WW1 memorial from close to the Tower of London [1]

Tower Hill in 1936

The Ordnance Survey Map for 1936 shows the WW1 memorial at the South end of Trinity Square Gardens.

Tower Hill
An extract from the Ordnance Survey Map of 1936 showing the layout of Trinity Square Gardens after the construction of the WW1 memorial. [5]

Design and Construction

The memorial in Trinity House Gardens was one of the major WW1 memorials designed by Sir Edwin Lanseer Lutyens (1869-1944) who also designed the Cenotaph in Whitehall, and the Thiepval Memorial to the "Missing of the Somme".

The memorial takes the form of a vaulted hall with plates with the names of members of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets whose lives were lost in the war and who have 'no grave but the sea'. The names of the dead are arranged alphabetically under their ships with the name of the Master or Skipper (if it appears) first in each case. They are inscribed on bronze panels covering the piers that support the roof. No rank or rating other than Master or Skipper is indicated.

Dedication Panel

The memorial commemorates 11,919 names and bears the following Dedication:

1914-1918

TO THE GLORY OF GOD

AND TO THE HONOUR OF

TWELVE THOUSAND OF THE MERCHANT NAVY

AND FISHING FLEETS

WHO HAVE NO GRAVE BUT THE SEA

Dedication
WW1 memorial dedication panel [1]

General Views of the Memorial

The photos below give a feeling for the simplicity and dignity of Lutyens design for the memorial.

General view of the WW1 Memorial General view of the WW1 Memorial
General views of the WW1 Memorial. The second of these was taken from the WW2 memorial on 23 November 2010 - just a week after the annual Armistice Day commemoration hence the many poppy wreaths present. [2]
General view of the WW1 Memorial General view of the WW1 Memorial
Futher views showing some of the commemorative panels that are both inside and outside. [2]
General view of the WW1 Memorial
View of the memorial from the wall of the Tower of London taken 7 March 2016 [2]

Unveiling

The memorial was begun in 1927 and unveiled by Her Majesty Queen Mary on 12 December 1928.

Announcement
Cutting from The Times 12 December 1928 announcing the unveiling of the memorial. [2]
Order of Service
Front cover of the Order of Service for the unveiling ceremony. [3]
Unveiling Unveiling Unveiling Unveiling
Cutting from The Times 13 December 1928 reporting the unveiling ceremony. [4]

Image Credits

  1. Photo by Brian Watson
  2. By courtesy of The Times 12 December 1928
  3. By courtesy of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  4. By courtesy of The Times 13 December 1928
  5. By courtesy of the National Library of Scotland