Britain has around 54,000 war memorials of all shapes and sizes. Communities all over Britain of all origins and religions respectfully commemorate the dead of the tragic conflicts of the last century.
Keeping track of all the memorials is a big job, and an important one. Many statues of remembrance live under threat from vandalism, the assault of the elements, new land developments and sometimes even officialdom. Sadly, it seems that some members of modern society don't always have the degree of respect that they should for those who laid down their lives in times of war.
On November 8 at the Imperial War Museum a new countrywide database of all the monuments was launched - the fruits of an ambitious ten-year project aimed at keeping tabs on the situation. The UK National Inventory of War Memorials is staffed by a full time team of three, but the mass of legwork recording and tracing sites has been done by an army of volunteers. All sorts of groups pitched in: from schools to local history groups, from parish councils to veterans associations.
Since the early 1920's efforts have been made to draw up some kind of register of memorials. Progress was hampered by poor record keeping and the countrywide scale of the work. By the 1980's memorials were being lost in significant numbers - this concern lead to the founding of the database project, a collaboration between the IWM and the Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England, now merged with English Heritage.
Work is still going on to trace and record many sites in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Work completed so far can be viewed by appointment in the Department of Printed Books Reading Room at the Imperial War Museum. The Reading Room is open by appointment Monday-Saturday, 10.00am - 5.00pm. Please telephone +44 (0)20 7416 5344 to make an appointment.
Click here to access more information about the IWM.
N.B. picture of Chattri taken from a thesis by Sarah Cheang on the web pages of SHARP, the Sussex Centre for Research in The History Of Art.