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Eagle Squadron Memorial

List Entry Summary

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

Name: Eagle Squadron Memorial

List entry Number: 1430215

Location

Eagle Squadron Memorial, Grosvenor Square Gardens, Mayfair, London, W1K 2HP

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

County: Greater London Authority

District: City of Westminster

District Type: London Borough

Parish: Non Civil Parish

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: II

Date first listed: 19-Jan-2016

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Building

Memorial to the Eagle Squadrons of the Second World War, 1985, incorporating sculpture by Elisabeth Frink.

Reasons for Designation

The Eagle Squadron Memorial, 1985 by Dame Elisabeth Frink, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Artistic interest: incorporating sculpture by an internationally significant C20 artist, it is a striking monument which combines the traditional obelisk with Frink’s spirited eagle; * Historic interest: it commemorates the sacrifices made by American citizens who were willing to renounce their citizenship to fight in the Second World War, and was commissioned by a prominent American industrialist 40 years after the event; * Group value: particularly for its proximity with the US Embassy and the statue of Franklin D Roosevelt, as well as a number of other listed buildings around the Square.

History

The period after 1945 saw a shift towards the idea of public sculpture as a primarily aesthetic contribution to the public realm. Sculpture was commissioned for new housing, schools, universities and civic set pieces, with the counties of Hertfordshire, London and Leicestershire leading the way in public patronage, with public sculpture representing civic renewal and social progress. By the late C20 however, patronage was more diverse and included corporate commissions and Arts Council-funded community art. The ideology of enhancing the public realm through art continued, but with divergent means and motivation.

The Eagle Squadrons Memorial was commissioned by American newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst, to commemorate the 244 Americans and the 16 British fighter pilots and other personnel who served in the three Royal Air Force Eagle Squadrons in the Second World War. In the United States it was illegal for citizens to join the armed forces of foreign nations; the penalty was loss of citizenship, but despite this, large numbers volunteered and flew with the RAF prior to the participation of the US in the war. The memorial was commissioned for Grosvenor Square, home to the US Embassy and a number of other memorials to American historic figures and events.

The memorial was erected in 1985 and unveiled on 12 May 1986 at a ceremony attended by the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. It is an obelisk crowned by a bronze eagle by Dame Elisabeth Frink. Frink (1930-1993) was born in Suffolk and attended the Guildford School of Art from 1947, and then the Chelsea School of Art from 1949 to 1953. Her first major public commissions were the Harlow New Town Boar and the 'Blind Beggar and Dog' in Bethnal Green. Her preferred sculptural technique involved modelling directly in plaster and then modifying the work with carving tools. Figurative sculpture of animals, particularly horses, and men dominated her work, earning Frink a national and international reputation. Five of Frink’s sculptures are listed including the 'Blind Beggar and Dog' (Grade II*, 1958, National Heritage List for England ref. 1031598): the 'Desert Quartet' sculptures at the Montague Shopping Centre in Worthing (Grade II*,1989, NHLE ref. 1391960) and the Crucifix for the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool she completed in the year of her death (the Cathedral is listed at Grade II*, NHLE ref. 1070607). She was elected a Royal Academician in 1977 and awarded a DBE in 1982. 

Details

Memorial to the Eagle Squadrons of the Second World War, 1985, incorporating sculpture by Elisabeth Frink.

MATERIALS: a pale sandstone shaft and bronze eagle sculpture.

DESCRIPTION: the memorial consists of an obelisk with a tapering top surmounted by an eagle in flight. The figurative eagle is roughly moulded with a deeply textured surface finish; the feet appear oversized, and the head is painted white, rendering it recognisable as the American bald eagle.

The square shaft is inscribed with incised lettering on each side. On the north-facing front is the stylised emblem of a spread eagle as seen on the Great Seal of the United States, clutching arrows in its left claw and what an olive branch in its right, with the inscription ‘EAGLE SQUADRONS / THIS MEMORIAL IS TO THE / MEMORY OF THE 244 AMERICAN / AND 16 BRITISH FIGHTER PILOTS / AND OTHER PERSONNEL WHO / SERVED IN THE THREE ROYAL / AIR FORCE EAGLE SQUADRONS / PRIOR TO THE PARTICIPATION OF / THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR / THEY SERVED WITH VALOR / FOUNDED BY CHARLES F SWEENY, JUNE 1940 / ERECTED THROUGH THE GENEROSITY / OF THE / HEARST CORPORATION OF AMERICA / IN THE NAME OF / WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST / PUBLISHER’.

The other faces commemorate each of the three squadrons: Squadron 133 on the east, with an emblem of a spread eagle on a bed of stars, and the motto, ‘LET US TO THE BATTLE’; Squadron 121 on the south with a carved crest showing a Native American at the centre, and the motto, ‘FOR LIBERTY’, and on the west, Squadron 71 has a carved spread eagle crest and the motto ‘FIRST FROM THE EYRIES’. The names, rank and decoration of the 289 subjects, of whom 71 died, are ordered by regiment and surname.



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, 10 February 2017.

Selected Sources

Websites
American War Memorails Overseas Inc, ‘Eagle Squadron Memorial’, accessed 13/08/2015 from http://www.uswarmemorials.org/html/monument_details.php?SiteID=202&MemID=310
Grosvenor Square Gardens, ‘Eagles Squadrons Memorial’, accessed 13/08/2015 from https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/grosvenor-square-garden/things-to-see-and-do/the-eagle-squadrons-memorial
London Remembers, ‘Monument: Eagle Squadrons’, accessed 13/08/2015 from http://www.londonremembers.com/memorials/eagle-squadrons
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ‘Frink, Dame Elisabeth Jean’, accessed 13/08/2015 from http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/38274?docPos=1
Royal Air Force Museum, ‘Eagle Squadrons’, accessed 13/08/2015 from http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/research/online-exhibitions/americans-in-the-royal-air-force/eagle-squadrons.aspx
War Memorials Online, accessed 10 February 2017 from https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/140742
War Memorials Register, accessed 13/08/2015 from http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/39828

National Grid Reference: TQ2839180758

Map

Map
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End of official listing