Construction and Dedication of the WW2 Memorial


UK and Commonwealth Merchant Navy losses in World War 2 were very heavy indeed - to a great extent due to sinkings by German U-boats and mines. I am not sure that there is a definitive total but over 24,000 had been lost at sea. It was decided to commemorate them with a memorial and it was fitting to locate it in Trinity Square Gardens close to that constructed to commemorate similar losses in World War 1. In addition to members of the Merchant Navy, the memorial includes those lost from Fishing Fleets and United Kingdom Lighthouse and Pilotage Services.

This page is about the construction and dedication of the memorial. To go directly to photos and details of casualties recorded on the memorial please click HERE.

Design and Construction

The memorial was designed by Sir Edward Brantwood Maufe (1883-1974) whose other works include the design of the Commonwealth Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede and Guildford Cathedral.

The proposed design was submitted and on 18 February 1952, The Times newspaper announced that the design had been approved. Note that the organisation that would become the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was known as the Imperial War Graves Commission at that time.

Approval Approval Approval
Cutting from The Times 18 February 1952 regarding the approval of the design for the memorial. [1]

Dedication Panel

A dedication panel was erected between the two main entrances to the memorial and between Charles Wheeler's sculptures representing Officers and Men.

Dedication Panel
Dedication panel for the WW2 memorial [2]

Sculptures by Charles Wheeler

In addition to the sculptures representing Officers and Men, the memorial is interspersed with representations of the seven seas and decorated ornaments.

Sculptures Sculptures Sculptures
Sculptures depicting Officers and Men of the Merchant Navy. [2]
Sculptures Sculptures Sculptures Sculptures Sculptures Sculptures Sculptures Sculptures
Sculptures depicting the seven seas and a decorated column ornament featuring dolphins or porpoises. [2]

General Views of the Memorial

The photos below give a feeling for the magnificent location of the Tower Hill memorials:

General view General view
Views of the WW2 memorial looking towards the Tower in 2013. The wreaths were from a recent commemoration ceremony. [2]


The WW2 memorial was unveiled by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 5 November 1955.

Cutting from The Times 1 March 1955 announcing the forthcoming unveiling of the memorial. [3]
Unveiling Unveiling Unveiling
Cutting from The Times 7 November 1955 reporting the unveiling ceremony. [4]

The ceremony was also televised. Although there were relatively few people with televisions at the time, there had been an upsurge in ownership as a result of the Coronation in 1953.

Cutting from The Times 7 November 1955 announcing the televising of the unveiling ceremony. [4]

Attendance was by invitation only. One of the attendees was the widow of John Baxter who had lost his life on Empire Surf. I am grateful to her relatives for providing these images of the front and back of the invitation card

Unveiling Unveiling
Invitation to the Unveiling Ceremony. [5]

Image Credits

  1. By courtesy of The Times 18 February 1952
  2. Photos by Brian Watson
  3. By courtesy of The Times 1 March 1955
  4. By courtesy of The Times 7 November 1955
  5. By courtesy of the family of John Baxter.