Memorial column, 1921, by Messrs Robert Bridgeman and Sons.
Reasons for Designation
The memorial to the 29th Division, Stretton-on-Dunsmore, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: probably the most significant single memorial in Britain associated with the Gallipoli campaign, raised to remember the assembly of the 29th Division, and its review by the King, before the Division departed in 1915 for Gallipoli where it suffered heavy losses;
* Design: a well-executed and substantial monolith.
In early 1915 Russia found itself threatened by Turkey in the Caucasus, and appealed to its British and French allies for a diversionary campaign. By then sucked into a stalemate on the Western Front, the allies were glad of the opportunity to launch a more dynamic operation. Thus, on 25 April 1915 the 78,000-strong Mediterranean Expeditionary Force landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula on the north bank of the Dardanelles, with the ultimate objective of capturing Constantinople. The MEF was made up of British, Australian, New Zealand and French troops, with the British contingent (which included Indian and Canadian troops) comprising the 29th Division and the Royal Naval Division.
The 29th Division was composed of regiments from far-flung parts of the Empire recalled at the outbreak of war. In December 1914 it assembled in the Stratford-Warwick-Leamington-Rugby-Nuneaton area, with many troops being billeted locally. It remained here until early March 1915. On 12 March 1915, before departure for Gallipoli, some 18,000 men and 6,000 horses of the 29th were reviewed here by King George V.
The allied landings, at the base of cliffs (the 29th landing at Cape Helles) on 25 April 1915 were heavily opposed by the Turkish defenders dug in above. A stalemate soon developed, and over the following ten months until the final allied troops quietly withdrew on 8 January 1916 both sides lost large numbers of troops in trench warfare as well as to disease and exposure. The Turkish dead may have numbered as many as 87,000, while allied losses amounted to almost 57,000 dead.
After Gallipoli the 29th served on the Western Front for the remainder of the war. After the Armistice on 11 November 1918 the Division moved to the Rhine. Overall during the war it suffered 94,000 casualties and won 27 Victoria Crosses. It was disbanded on 15 March 1919.
The memorial marks the spot where King George V reviewed the Division in 1915 before it departed for Gallipoli. It was funded by public subscription and cost £646, and was designed and constructed by Messrs Robert Bridgeman and Sons of Lichfield. It was unveiled on 24 May 1921 by Lord Craven, the Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire, and received by the Lord Lieutenant of the County, Lord Algernon Percy. A crowd estimated to be over 7,000 was in attendance.
The memorial stands in a circular, gravelled area, on the west side of the roundabout at the junction of the A45 and B4455. It comprises a 12m high tapering square-sectioned monolith of Portland stone surmounted by a square moulded urn finial with crown. The monolith rises from a moulded and banded pedestal with cornice. The pedestal has a moulded panel on the north face carrying the inscription:
HERE/ IN THE CENTRE OF ENGLAND/ WHERE TELFORD'S COACHING-ROAD/ FROM LONDON TO HOLYHEAD/ IS CROSSED BY THE ROMAN FOSSE WAY/ ON THE 12TH OF MARCH 1915/ HIS MAJESTY KING GEORGE V/ REVIEWED HIS TROOPS/ OF THE IMMORTAL/ XXIX DIVISION/ SHORTLY BEFORE THEY EMBARKED/ FOR ACTIVE SERVICE/ IN GALLIPOLI/ IN MEMORY OF THEIR STAY IN WARWICKSHIRE/ 1914-15 AND OF THEIR INCOMPARABLE SERVICES/ SINCE THE AVENUE ON THIS ROAD WAS REPLANTED/ AND THIS MONUMENT ERECTED BY/ INHABITANTS OF THE COUNTY
Below this panel is carved the Divisional symbol, painted red. Around the base on three sides is described the Division’s order of battle.
Extending either side from the memorial is an avenue of lime trees. This originated in the early C18 as the six mile-long Dunchurch Avenue either side of the London Road (now the A45). There have been successive re-plantings, including in 1920/21 as part of the memorial to the 29th Division. Originally two captured field guns stood either side of the memorial. It is thought these were removed during the Second World War scrap drive.
This List entry has been amended to add sources for War Memorials Online and the War Memorials Register. These sources were not used in the compilation of this List entry but are added here as a guide for further reading, 17 January 2017.