There are many different types of war memorials. They can be made of various materials and can be found in diverse locations. However, the one common characteristic shared by war memorials is that they commemorate a war or conflict and the people involved in or affected by that war or conflict.
What is a war memorial?
A war memorial can be any object that bears an inscription, or has a purpose, commemorating a war or a conflict and those involved. A memorial can be created or erected by anyone in any location and can be permanent (a stone monument, sculpture or cross), temporary (a shrine or book of remembrance) or living (a tree or group of trees).
A memorial can be in a public or a private location and can be inside or attached to a building or outside in a garden, cemetery or public space.
Many memorials are located in public parks or town squares but there are also many that are in more obscure locations that are harder to find.
War memorials can commemorate an individual or a number of people. They may have died in action, in wartime accidents or by friendly fire, or as a result of injuries or disease sustained in action. They can also commemorate those who served and survived, civilians involved in or affected by the conflict as well as animals.
Memorials can be erected during or soon after the conflict or even some years later.
A gravestone above the grave of a fallen soldier is not classified as a memorial but as a ‘war grave’. Where their body is not present and an additional inscription has been made about the person then it can be classed as a memorial. Many Welsh and other UK servicemen were buried overseas in cemeteries still maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The War Memorials Trust in the UK has a concise definition of a war memorial.
‘Any physical object created, erected or installed to commemorate those involved in or affected by a conflict or war should be considered a war memorial. Memorials to civilians and animals should be included.’
Definition of a war memorial
(Accessed 9th March 2016)
What types of war memorials are there?
Any object can be created or dedicated as a war memorial. They are found in a diverse range of shapes, sizes, designs and materials often far removed from the familiar traditional image of a cross on top of a column or plinth. The overriding concept, however, was to create something enduring to preserve the memory of the dead. The design chosen by the community offered an insight into their feelings and responses.
It is estimated that there are between 60,000 and 100,000 war memorials in the UK. They all have a common purpose but there are many different types.
War memorials built during the 1920s and 1930s are generally quite conservative in design, conveying messages of comfort and respect as an enduring commemoration. Many have classical themes from the 19th century, simplified and made more abstract, reflecting early 20th century styles.
The commissioning of war memorials was generally at a very local level involving a wide range of local and national institutions. Their funding was also extremely varied with private and charitable contributions from many sources.
Here are some types of war memorials:
Addition to gravestone
Board, plaque or tablet
Battlefield cross or marker
Chapel (dedicated within church)
Church fabric: Lectern or desk
Church fabric or fitting: Organ
Church fabric or fitting: Other
Church fabric or fitting: Screen
Clock or clock tower
Column or pillar
Flag or banner
Hall or institute
Other type of memorial
Roll of honour
Sculptured or cast single figure
Sculptured or cast group
Seat or bench
Stone of remembrance
Tree, grove or avenue
Trophy or relic
Which materials are war memorials made of?
As there are so many different kinds of war memorials, there is a lot of variation in the materials used to make or construct them.
Here is a list of some of the more common materials that war memorials may be made from. This list is not exhaustive.
Painting or gilding