Chatham Naval War Memorial


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Great Lines, Chatham


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Statutory Address:
Great Lines, Chatham

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Medway (Unitary Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
TQ 76300 68000


Naval Memorial at Chatham, overlooking the town of Chatham from the east. Unveiled in 1924, the memorial was designed by Sir Robert Lorimer with sculpture by Henry Poole. The Second World War extension, unveiled in 1952, was designed by Sir Edward Maufe, with sculpture by William McMillan and Charles Wheeler. One of three naval memorials erected by the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission.

Reasons for Designation

Chatham Naval Memorial, unveiled in 1924, designed by Sir Robert Lorimer with sculpture by Henry Poole, together with the Second World War extension, unveiled in 1952, designed by Sir Edward Maufe, with sculpture by William McMillan and Charles Wheeler is listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons: * Historic interest: as an eloquent tribute to those who served with the Royal Navy, and the sacrifices they made in both the First and Second World Wars, commemorating those who have no grave but the sea; * Architectural interest: the First World War memorial, taking the form of a rostral obelisk intended as a mark for shipping, is a powerful naval symbol, whilst the Second World War extension makes an architectural contribution to the dignity and contemplative quality of the memorial as a whole; * Sculptural interest: both parts of the memorial are enhanced by distinguished sculpture on naval themes, both emblematic and contemporary; * Group value: to the north is the scheduled Brompton Lines defence system for Chatham Dockyard, and beyond that, the dockyard itself, also scheduled, within which a number of buildings are listed at high grades.


More than 50,000 men and women lost their lives while serving with the Royal Navy during the First World War.

British naval personnel played a vital role in the Allied war effort and suffered significant casualties across the globe. In the first weeks of the conflict, the British Grand Fleet established a blockade in the North Sea severely restricting the movements of the German Navy and merchant shipping. The blockading of German shipping lanes ensured there would be relatively few encounters between British and German battleships during the war, but major naval actions did take place off the coast of Chile and at the Falkland Islands in 1914, and in the North Sea in 1915 and 1916. The Royal Navy also provided the army with crucial support during the Dardanelles Campaign in 1915 and protected Allied merchant shipping by escorting trans-Atlantic convoys throughout the war.

The most significant naval confrontation of the war, the Battle of Jutland, saw the British Grand Fleet under Admiral Jellicoe and the German High Seas Fleet under Vice-Admiral Scheer clash off the coast of Denmark on 31 May and 1 June 1916. The battle, ultimately inconclusive, raged over 72 hours, engaging over 100,000 British and German naval personnel in 250 ships; more than 6,000 British men were killed, and over 2,500 Germans.

Large numbers of warships and naval auxiliary vessels were lost to German mines, and submarine warfare was also responsible for many deaths. More than one third of the men commemorated on the Chatham memorial were lost in submarine attacks, 15 of them on 10 November 1918 – the day before the Armistice – when HMS Ascot was torpedoed off the coast of Northumberland. Accidents took their toll – the Chatham memorial bears the names of the majority of those lost when HMS Natal and HMS Vanguard were destroyed by internal explosions in 1915 and 1917, HMS Vanguard having served at the Battle of Jutland.

Many of those killed whilst serving with the Royal Navy were members of the Royal Naval Division who died while fighting on land, but the majority were lost at sea and have no known grave. After the Armistice, the naval authorities and the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission were determined to find an appropriate way to commemorate naval personnel who had no grave but the sea. An Admiralty committee recommended that the three manning ports in Great Britain at Plymouth, Chatham and Portsmouth should each have an identical memorial of unmistakable form – an obelisk – which would serve as a leading mark for shipping. The memorials were designed by Sir Robert Lorimer with sculpture by Henry Poole.

The Scottish architect, Sir Robert Lorimer (1864-1929) was principally a domestic architect, working on restorations of historic houses and castles, and creating new work in Scots Baronial and Gothic Revival styles. Lorimer was employed by the War Graves Commission, being responsible for Italy and Greece, and in 1919 also received the commission for the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle, which opened in 1927. The architectural sculptor Henry Poole (1873-1928) was Master of the Royal Academy’s Sculpture School from 1894 to 1928. Poole worked for many years in association with the architectural partnership Lanchester and Rickards on public buildings and monuments including Westminster Central Hall and Cardiff City Hall. During the First World War he worked at the School of Camouflage established in Hyde Park by Solomon Joseph Solomon.

Chatham Naval Memorial was unveiled by the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII) on 26 April 1924. The memorial commemorates over 8,500 sailors lost in the First World War.

Following the Second World War, it was decided that the three naval war memorials should be extended to commemorate those killed in that conflict, with different treatments for each site. The architectural designs were by Sir Edward Maufe, from 1943 principal architect for the UK to the Imperial War Graves Commission, and designer of the Air Forces memorial at Runnymede, with sculpture by Charles Wheeler and William McMillan. Plaques were added with the names of over 10,000 sailors lost in the Second World War. The extension was unveiled in 1952.


War memorial, overlooking the town of Chatham from the east, approached by a steep path from the Town Hall Gardens. Unveiled in 1924, the memorial was designed by Sir Robert Lorimer with sculpture by Henry Poole. The Second World War extension, unveiled in 1952, was designed by Sir Edward Maufe, with sculpture by William McMillan and Charles Wheeler.

MATERIALS: Portland stone ashlar, with large copper sphere and bronze plaques.

DESCRIPTION: the memorial takes the form of a massive stone obelisk, with four ships’ prows projecting from the apex, inspired by the rostral columns erected to celebrate Roman naval victories. The obelisk rises from a stepped square base with corner projections, each projection supporting a lion couchant. Low down on each side of the obelisk is the naval badge of an anchor within a laurel wreath, surmounted by a naval crown. The apex of the obelisk is stepped inwards; above the branching ships’ prows, are bronze figures representing the four winds, who bear a large copper sphere representing the earth. Between the lions are bronze plaques: that to the south bears the inscription, ‘IN HONOUR OF THE NAVY / AND TO THE ABIDING MEMORY / OF THESE RANKS AND / RATINGS OF THIS PORT WHO LAID DOWN THEIR / LIVES IN THE DEFENCE OF THE EMPIRE AND / HAVE NO OTHER GRAVE THAN THE SEA / AND THEIR COMRADES OF AUSTRALIA / SOUTH AFRICA NEWFOUNDLAND INDIA PAKISTAN / CEYLON FIJI GOLD COAST HONG KONG KENYA / MALAYA NIGERIA SIERRA LEONE AND BURMA / WHOSE NAMES ARE HERE RECORDED’. The plaques to the other faces commemorate actions with enemy land forces, single ship actions, and general actions at sea (including Jutland); the plaques contain images of naval action in low relief. Around the base are plaques carrying the names of the dead; the names are arranged by the year of death, and within each year, by rank and role.

The Second World War extension takes the form of an exedra or small garden area enclosed by quadrant walls, enclosing the obelisk to the landward (eastern) side; a low wall to the west closes the space, with a wide opening. The outer faces of the walls are punctuated by pilaster strips; inside, they are lined with bronze plaques bearing the names of those lost during the Second World War. The entrance to the enclosure to the east is marked by piers topped by flaming urns; the wrought iron gates incorporating a wave-scroll pattern; a band at the top bears the inscription, ‘ALL THESE WERE HONOURED IN THEIR GENERATIONS / AND WERE THE GLORY OF THEIR TIMES’. Above this is a gilded naval crown. Flanking the gates, inside the enclosure, are sculptural figures depicting two sailors on watch: a Royal Marine and a member of the maritime regiment of the Royal Artillery, both wearing duffel coats and holding binoculars. At the ends of the walls, to north and south, are long shelters set on a west/east axis, with copper barrel-vaulted roofs; the shelters have Ionic columned openings to the enclosure. The back and end walls have windows with stone architraves and pronounced keystones. To the east of each shelter, at the end of the curved walls, stands another sailor. Stone paving leads to the eastern entrance, and forms wide paths within the enclosure.

The entry was subject to a Minor Enhancement in 2016.

This List entry has been amended to add the source for War Memorials Online. This source was not used in the compilation of this List entry but is added here as a guide for further reading, 1 December 2016.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Newman, J, The Buildings of England: West Kent and the Weald, (1969), 195
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, accessed 10 February 2016 from
War Memorials Online, accessed 01/12/2016 from
War Memorials Register, accessed 10/02/2016 from


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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Date: 30 Jul 2001
Reference: IOE01/04833/04
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr David G. Smith. Source Historic England Archive
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