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First World War Memorials

To mark 100 years since the end of World War One, RIBApix presents a collection of images showing both built and unexecuted First World War Memorials from around the world.

The devastating and unimaginable number of casualties as well as the destruction of large areas of Europe, led to The Great War of 1914-1918 being known at the time as “the war to end all wars”. Thousands of families around the world were affected, with many communities losing a large portion of their young, male population. Hundreds of villages and towns across Europe were badly damaged or in some cases destroyed by the war. In addition to the many lives lost, World War One also resulted in millions of soldiers returning home with both physical and mental scars, forever impacted by their participation in the conflict.

The monumental impact of The Great War globally resulted in a major shift in how nations commemorated it. Huge numbers of memorials were built around the world, with over 100,000 in France alone. Many towns and villages constructed small memorials to the men their communities had lost. Thousands of memorial walls of honour were put up in factories, railway stations, schools and universities to commemorate participants from institutions. The Royal Institute of British Architects’ memorial is outside of the Jarvis Hall at its headquarters at 66 Portland Place, to commemorate ‘members, licentiates and students’ who lost their lives in the First World War. The majority of these were paid for by the communities and institutions themselves.

Beyond these smaller more community driven memorials, larger ones were also built, driven by governments and international organisations. The Imperial War Graves Commission (now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission) for example was set up to create memorials to soldiers from Great Britain and the wider commonwealth that had fought in the war, including the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, and the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the SommeThe Cenotaph, London’s most prominent memorial built after the First World War, was designed by Edwin Lutyens, initially a temporary structure made of wood and plaster, built as Whitehall’s monument for the London Victory Parade on 19 July 1919. On the 30th July that year, the British War Cabinet decided that a permanent war memorial should replace the temporary one. The final completed version, built from Portland Stone by Holland & Hannen and Cubitts, was unveiled by King George V on 11 November 1920, the second anniversary of the end of the First World War.

As well as the memorials constructed across the world, war cemeteries also represented a strong example of the way the First World War was commemorated. The Treaty of Versailles made all nations responsible for the maintenance of military graves within their countries. The countries of the soldiers interned there however, held control over the style and design of the cemeteries. Architecturally, most war memorials and war cemeteries built to commemorate the First World War were conservative in design, commonly following classical themes, attempting to provide a noble, enduring commemoration of the fallen.

See additional images of war memorials from the First World War, or war memorials from all conflicts.

Feature by Anthony Wilkinson.

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Menin Gate, Ypres

Blomfield, Sir Reginald (1856-1942)

Cenotaph, Whitehall, London

Lutyens, Sir Edwin Landseer (1869-1944)

Design for a war memorial cross, Petworth

Williams-Ellis, Sir Clough (1883-1978)

Preliminary designs and studies for the first scheme for the Faubourg d'Amiens Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing, Arras: perspective of the Memorial to the Missing

Lutyens, Sir Edwin Landseer (1869-1944)
NOTES: The Memorial to the Missing was to commemorate missing airmen. The design for the first, unexecuted, scheme at Arras was seen in a more elaborated form at the Memorial to the Missing of the Battle of the Somme, Thiepval.

Design for the All-India War Memorial Arch, New Delhi

Lutyens, Sir Edwin Landseer (1869-1944)

Design for a war memorial chapel, Oldham Parish Church, Oldham: plan and elevation

Cachemaille-Day, Nugent Francis (1896-1976)
NOTES: This memorial chapel was designed as an addition to the existing Oldham Parish Church of St. Mary with St. Peter, which was designed by Richard Lane and built in 1830.

Design for a war memorial, Leeds

Blomfield, Sir Reginald (1856-1942)

Design for Manchester war memorial: sketched elevations, perspectives and plans

Lutyens, Sir Edwin Landseer (1869-1944)
NOTES: This memorial was designed to commemorate those killed in World War I.

Design for carvings on a war memorial (World War One): sketched elevation showing a sinking steamship in the background with a lifeboat (or fishing boat) full of people attempting to rescue further survivors from the sea

Jack, George Washington Henry (1855-1931)
NOTES: During World War One George Jack worked in the LCC Architects Department where he remained until 1919. Thereafter his own practice was chiefly concerned with memorials and church furnishings.

Design for Southampton war memorial, Southampton: sketched perspective

Lutyens, Sir Edwin Landseer (1869-1944)

Memorial to the Missing of the Battle of the Somme, Thiepval

Lutyens, Sir Edwin Landseer (1869-1944)

British Cemetery and New Zealand Soldiers Memorial, Grevillers

Lutyens, Sir Edwin Landseer (1869-1944)
NOTES: This is one of seven memorials in France and Belgium to those New Zealand soldiers who died on the Western Front and whose graves are not known.

Military Cemetery of Etaples: the cemtery seen from the hilltop memorial

Lutyens, Sir Edwin Landseer (1869-1944)
NOTES: This is the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in France.

Military Cemetery of Etaples

Lutyens, Sir Edwin Landseer (1869-1944)
NOTES: This is the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in France.

War Memorial Gateway, Clifton College, College Road, Bristol

Adams Holden & Pearson
NOTES: This gateway was built to commemorate the teachers and pupils of Clifton College who died during World War I.

Post Office Rifles Cemetery, Festubert, Pas de Calais

Holden, Charles Henry (1875-1960)
NOTES: This cemetery was designed for the Imperial War Graves Commission by Charles Holden as assistant architect to Reginald Blomfield.

War Memorial, Wigan

Scott, Sir Giles Gilbert (1880-1960)

Memorial to the fallen soldiers, Simmeringer Hauptstrasse, Vienna

Baumfeld, Rudolf Lothar (1903-1988)
NOTES: This photoprint was originally part of the Refugee Committee Papers in the RIBA Archives Collection.

British Medical Association, Tavistock Square, Bloomsbury, London: the Court of Honour seen from the World War I Memorial Gates with the World War II memorial in the background

Lutyens, Sir Edwin Landseer (1869-1944)
NOTES: The BMA building was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and completed in 1925. He also designed the wrought-iron screen and Memorial Gates, completed in 1926. The World War II memorial, completed in 1952, was designed by Stephen Rowland Pierce and the four statues Sacrifice, Cure, Prevention and Aspiration were sculpted by James A Woodford.

Welsh National War Memorial, Cathays Park, Cardiff

Comper, Sir John Ninian (1864-1960)
NOTES: This is one of the images taken for 'Manplan 7: Local Government' in Architectural Review, vol. 148, 1970 July.

A record sketch of the unexecuted design for the Memorial to the Missing at St Quentin, Nord

Lutyens, Sir Edwin Landseer (1869-1944)
NOTES: Lutyens's design for this World War I memorial at St Quentin was abandoned and his design for a memorial for the missing of the Battle of the Somme was instead built at Thiepval.

Design for the Menin Gate, Ypres, for the Imperial War Graves Commission: perspective

Blomfield, Sir Reginald (1856-1942)
NOTES: The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown.

Preliminary, unexecuted design for Spalding War Memorial, Ayscoughee Gardens, Spalding, Lincolnshire: elevation to the canal (second scheme)

Lutyens, Sir Edwin Landseer (1869-1944)
NOTES: The built memorial (executed in 1922) was a much simpler design - a small, three-sided temple at the end of a canal, with a Great War stone in front of the temple.

Competition design for the Liverpool Cenotaph, St George's Plateau, Liverpool: elevations

Summerson, Sir John (1904-1992)
NOTES: This design for a cenotaph seen in front of the columns of St George's Hall, Liverpool, was prepared by Summerson for the competition called early in 1926 (assessor Prefessor Charles Reilly) - the year he bagan working in the office of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. The Liverpool Cenotaph was built to designs by Lionel Budden (sculptor Herbert Tyson Smith) and unveiled in 1930.

Competition design for memorial to the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, York Minster: elevation, part-section and details

Voysey, Charles Francis Annesley (1857-1941)
NOTES: A slightly simplified version of this design was executed. It is located in the west aisle of the north transept.

National Westminster Bank, Shoplatch, Shrewsbury: detail of clock with war memorial plaque underneath

Palmer & Holden
NOTES: See RIBA109370 for a colour version of this image.

St Saviour War Memorial, Bermondsey, London, with the Shard in the background

Clark, Philip Lindsey (1889-1977)
NOTES: The Shard by Renzo Piano Workshop was completed in 2012.

All-India War Memorial, New Delhi

Lutyens, Sir Edwin Landseer (1869-1944)

War Memorial Bell Tower, Loughborough, Leicestershire

Tapper, Michael John (1894-1963)

Sketched designs for a proposed temporary war shrine, Hyde Park, London

Lutyens, Sir Edwin Landseer (1869-1944)

Douaumont ossuary near Verdun, Lorraine

Azema, Leon (1888-1978)
NOTES: This ossuary contains the remains of approximately 300,000 French and German soldiers who perished in the Battle of Verdun, which lasted from 21 February 1916 until December 1916. It was designed in 1920-1927 by Azema, Hardy and Edrei, who became friends while prisoners of war, and officially inaugurated in 1932.