Monday, January 08, 2024

Battle of Britain Monument

London The Unfinished City

Walking along the Victoria Embankment, near Whitehall, you will discover the Battle of Britain Monument, which stretches along the pavement.

This granite and bronze monument was built so that visitors can interact with it. This impressive monument has scenes from different aspects of the Battle of Britain. From Airmen 'scrambling' to women working in munitions factories to the ground crews who kept the aeroplanes serviced... and more.

London The Unfinished City
"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

I can happily look at this monument for hours, and still find something that I have never noticed before.

Brief History

The Monument was originally an initiative of the Battle of Britain Historical Society, which was founded by Bill Bond. A fundraising committee was then formed to raise funds, select a sculptor and oversee the entire project.

Paul Day was the sculptor selected for this mammoth 25 m (82 ft) monument, which sits atop an existing granite structure, which was originally designed as a smoke outlet for underground steam trains. This smoke outlet had been filled and blocked for many years.

The monument was paid for by donations, mainly from members of the public around the world. The government of the Czech Republic also made a donation. However, the British government at the time declined to get involved.

A walkway has been cut obliquely through the middle of the existing structure, with bronze reliefs, depicting different aspects of the Battle of Britain, are positioned along either side. 

Bronze plaques list the names and ranks of the airmen who took part in the battle and are mounted around the outside of the monument.

The Monument is designed to commemorate those people who took part in the battle. Whilst the airmen are commemorated with their names cast in bronze, the scenes are designed to also remember everyone, military and civilian, who took part in the battle.

London The Unfinished City
The slit trench.

The Morris Singer foundry, which had many years earlier cast some of the Trafalgar Square lions, was used to cast the bronze reliefs. There are thirteen bronze depictions of the Battle of Britain, cast on this monument. 

The monument was unveiled on 18 September 2005 by Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall in front of over 700 people, following the Royal Air Force Service of Thanksgiving and Rededication on Battle of Britain Sunday.

This service is an annual event that first took place in 1943, at St Paul's Cathedral, and has since has taken place in Westminster Abbey.

London The Unfinished City
Large pilot's head and spotters.

Below is a list of the different scenes depicted on the monument.
  • Pilots at rest
  • The observers
  • Mechanics and Riggers
  • Scramble
  • Large pilot's head and spotters
  • Tales from the Mess
  • The slit trench
  • Gunners
  • Woman power
  • Dogfight
  • St Paul's
  • Searching the ruins
  • Brew up
London The Unfinished City
St Paul's.

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