The Twentieth Century Society

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Battle of Britain Memorial, London Photo © Sarah J Duncan
Click to see full size Photo © Sarah J Duncan

War memorials

London: Battle of Britain Memorial

Architect: Tony Dyson (Donald Insall Associates), Paul Day (Sculpture), 2005
Location: Victoria Embankment

Of all the recent memorials in London, none has been more debated than this one, a memorial to Winston Churchill’s famous few. In September 2000, at the suggestion of Westminster City Council and English Heritage, the Battle of Britain Historical Society appointed an architect to carry out a feasibility study to examine how an existing disused granite structure on the Victoria Embankment, reportedly owned by London Underground Limited, could form the base for a Monument to the Battle of Britain. In December 2001, the architect, Tony Dyson of Donald Insall Associates, organised a limited competition to find an appropriate sculptor for the project, forming a Selection Committee, whose deliberations led to the Historical Society appointing the sculptor Paul Day in April 2002. Working closely with the sculptor, the architect designed the memorial around one of Bazalgette’s granite plinths (a ventilation shaft for the District Railway).

In December 2002, in order to co-ordinate the fundraising for the Monument, the Historical Society appointed Maurice Djanogly who, at the beginning of 2003, formed the Battle of Britain Monument Committee and became the Deputy Chairman, with Rt. Hon The Lord Tebbit CH as Chairman.

This memorial, more than any other recent monument, has fuelled public debate about the continued construction of memorials, which is perhaps odd for, along with the Women at War Memorial, it is perhaps the most necessary of all of the recent monuments. It was critically very well received and seems to be well-loved by veterans of the battle. Donald Insall Associates were also responsible for the Animals at War Memorial on Park Lane, another monument that has caused a degree of head-scratching for many who are concerned about the present state of, and indeed the future of, memorial sculpture generally.

Jon Wright

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