First World War Memorials

Tributes to the Fallen

First World War Memorials in the RIBA Collections

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 Somme. The 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.

To see additional images of war memorials from the First World War, Click here. To see images of war memorials from all conflicts, Click here.

Feature by Anthony Wilkinson.


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57 items
RIBA2988-31Menin Gate, Ypres

RIBA3370-53War Memorial, Euston, London: dedication ceremony in presence of Earl Haig

RIBA3371-53War Memorial, Euston, London: four maquettes of soldiers to stand at the foot of the column

RIBA7831War Memorial Bell Tower, Loughborough, Leicestershire

RIBA13025Preliminary 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

RIBA29677Sketched designs for a proposed temporary war shrine, Hyde Park, London

RIBA33062Shrine of Remembrance, St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Victoria

RIBA33640Sarfatti monument, Col d'Echele, Asiago Plateau, province of Vicenza

RIBA33642Sarfatti monument, Col d'Echele, Asiago Plateau, province of Vicenza

RIBA40003Memorial to the Missing of the Battle of the Somme, Thiepval: the cemetery seen from the monument

RIBA40024Military Cemetery of Etaples: the cemtery seen from the hilltop memorial

RIBA40030Military Cemetery of Etaples

RIBA40032Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery and Australian National Memorial, Fouilloy

RIBA40037Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery and Australian National Memorial, Fouilloy: view of the cemetery from atop the central tower of the Australian monument

RIBA40040Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery and Australian National Memorial, Fouilloy, seen across cornfields

RIBA50415War Memorial Gateway, Clifton College, College Road, Bristol

RIBA50417Post Office Rifles Cemetery, Festubert, Pas de Calais

RIBA54482War Memorial Building, Harrow School, London: the war memorial shrine

RIBA54783War Memorial, Wigan

RIBA54991Preliminary design for the memorial chapel, British Military Cemetery, Lyssenthoek

RIBA62882Welsh National War Memorial, Cathays Park, Cardiff

RIBA73042Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh: the rear elevation showing the shrine

RIBA91443Unidentified War Memorial, Ragusa, Sicily

RIBA92003Unexecuted designs for the Preston Cenotaph and War Memorial, Market Square, Preston, Lancashire: elevation

RIBA94832Preliminary, unexecuted design for Spalding War Memorial, Ayscoughee Gardens, Spalding, Lincolnshire: elevation to the canal (second scheme)

RIBA109370National Westminster Bank, Shoplatch, Shrewsbury: detail of clock with war memorial plaque underneath

RIBA111445St Saviour War Memorial, Bermondsey, London, with the Shard in the background

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