Construction and Dedication of the WW1 Memorial

WW1 Memorial


UK and Commonwealth Merchant Navy and fishing fleet losses in WW1 are estimated as around 15,500 people. Of these, 12,000 had no known graves and, after the war, it was decided to commemorate them on a memorial to be located at Trinity Square Gardens. 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 [54]

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. [49]

Design and Construction

The memorial to Merchant Seamen was designed by Sir Edwin Lanseer Lutyens (1869-1944) who also designed the Cenotaph in Whitehall and the memorial to the "Missing of the Somme" at Thiepval.

The Cenotaph [60]
Thiepval Memorial
Thiepval Memorial [7]

Dedication Panel

The Tower Hill memorial takes the form of a vaulted hall with panels carrying 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. Generally speaking the panels are arranged in two sequences - the first sequence is of merchant ships and the second sequence of fishing vessels. The names of the dead seamen are arranged alphabetically after the name of the Master or Skipper. The panels are of bronze and cover the piers that support the roof. No rank or rating other than Master or Skipper is indicated. The names of some vessels are out of sequence.

The memorial commemorates 11,919 names and bears the following Dedication at roof level and facing the Tower of London:

WW1 memorial dedication panel [54]

General Views of the Memorial

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

General view of the WW1 Memorial General view of the WW1 Memorial
General views of the WW1 Memorial. [54]
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. [54]
General view of the WW1 Memorial
View of the memorial from the wall of the Tower of London taken 7 March 2016 [54]


The memorial was begun in 1927. On 1 December 1928 the 'Eastern Post and City Chronicle' described the completion of the memorial tablets by the Morris Art Foundary. This would actually have been the Morris Singer Art Foundary - a business that still casts artwork in bronze that has handled the work of Jacob Epstein for Coventry Cathedral and of Barbara Hepworth for the United Nations building.

Cutting from the 'Eastern Post and City Chronicle' [97]

On 12 December 1928, and in pouring rain, the memorial was dedicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury and unveiled by Her Majesty Queen Mary. The proceedings were relayed to the public via radio - surprisingly there were about 3 million radio receiving licences by then. Newspapers seemed more concerned about the health of the monarch who had been ill rather than the ceremony. Some things never change.

Cutting from The Times 12 December 1928 announcing the unveiling of the memorial. [59]
Order of Service
Front cover of the Order of Service for the unveiling ceremony. [6]
Cutting from The Times 13 December 1928 reporting the unveiling ceremony. [59]

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