The Naval War Memorial at Plymouth, situated at the centre of The Hoe, looking towards Plymouth Sound. Unveiled in 1924, the First World War memorial was designed by Sir Robert Lorimer with sculpture by Henry Poole. The Second World War extension, unveiled in 1954, was designed by Sir Edward Maufe, with sculpture by Charles Wheeler and William McMillan. One of three naval memorials erected by the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission.
Reasons for Designation
The Naval War Memorial at Plymouth, unveiled in 1924, designed by Sir Robert Lorimer with sculpture by Henry Poole, together with the Second World War extension, unveiled in 1954, designed by Sir Edward Maufe, with sculpture by Charles Wheeler and William McMillan 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 column 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: the memorial stands within the registered Hoe Park, which contains a number of listed structures and monuments; immediately to the south of the war memorial stand two late-C19 memorials; to the south-west is the Drake Statue by J E Boem (1884) and to the south-east is the Armada Memorial by H A Gribble (1888), both listed at Grade II*. At a short distance further to the south-east is the war memorial to the Royal Marines of the Plymouth Division, erected in 1920, and listed at Grade II. The scheduled area of the Royal Citadel, with several listed buildings, is immediately to the east.
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 once they began in May 1917
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, which did not result in a decisive victory for either side, raged over 72 hours, engaging over 100,000 British and German naval personnel in 250 ships; over 6,000 British men were killed, and over 2,500 Germans. Over a quarter of the men commemorated by the Plymouth Naval Memorial to the Missing were lost at Jutland. This includes most of the crews of the battlecruiser HMS Indefatigable and the armoured cruiser HMS Defence.
Submarine warfare was also responsible for many deaths, whilst large numbers of warships and naval auxiliary vessels were lost to German mines – more than 1130 of the men commemorated on the Plymouth memorial were killed when their vessel struck a mine, including 140 officers and crew serving in the first British warship to be lost in the war, HMS Amphion.
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.
The Plymouth Naval Memorial was unveiled by HRH Prince George on 29 July 1924. The memorial commemorates over 7,250 naval personnel of the First World War. In addition to honouring those who sailed from Plymouth, the names of sailors from Australia and South Africa are included here; the governments of other Commonwealth nations chose to commemorate their dead elsewhere.
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. The names of over 15,930 sailors named on the memorial include those from Commonwealth countries other than Canada and New Zealand, commemorated elsewhere. The extension was unveiled in 1954. In 1956 panels were added honouring those who died on shore, but had no known grave.
War memorial, unveiled 1924. Designed by Sir Robert Lorimer with sculpture by Henry Poole. The Second World War extension, unveiled in 1954, was designed by Sir Edward Maufe, with sculpture by Charles Wheeler and William McMillan.
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 service and rank.
The Second World War extension takes the form of a sunken garden area enclosed by quadrant walls, curving outwards from the obelisk to the landward (north); the walls also curve around the obelisk at the centre. The sunken area is reached by wide stepped walkways following the curve of the walls, and wide steps leading from the centre of the obelisk. The walls are lined with bronze plaques bearing the names of those lost during the Second World War. Standing against the walls at the centre, beneath the obelisk, 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; between them is a stone plaque with a naval crown and the inscription, ‘1914-1918 1939-1945 / ALL THESE WERE HONOURED IN THEIR GENERATIONS / AND WERE THE GLORY OF THEIR TIMES’. Low walls define the steps, and the northern boundary of the memorial. The entrance to the north is flanked by low piers holding bronze sculptures by Wheeler: Neptune to the west and a Nereid or mermaid to the east, both on paired marine horses. Stone paving surrounds the obelisk, and forms paths within the garden enclosure.
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, 8 December 2016.
This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 12 May 2022 to reword a sentence in description.