Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A war memorial is a building, monument, statue or other edifice to commemorate those who have died, or been injured, in war.
For most of human history war memorials were erected to commemorate great victories and remembering the dead was a secondary concern. The Arc de Triomphe or Nelson's Column contain no names of those killed.
In modern times the intent of the war memorial is not to glorify war, but to honour those who have died, or been injured. This change occurred largely after the First World War which saw massive devastation especially to France. In response virtually every French village erected a memorial listing the names of each soldier from that region who had died. The same is true of most villages in England and many other countries. Massive monuments commemorating thousands of dead such as the Menin Gate at Ypres were also constructed.
Since that time memorials to the dead in other conflicts such as the Second World War and the Vietnam War have also noted individual contributions, at least in the west. In the Soviet Union, China, Japan and other nations memorials remained communalistic with long lists of names being far rarer.
A war memorial can be an entire building, often containing a museum, or just a simple plaque. Many war memorials take the form of a monument or statue, and serve as a meeting place for memorial day services. As such, they are often found near the centre of town, or contained in a park or plaza to allow easy public access.
Many war memorials bear plaques listing the names of those that died in battle. Sometimes these lists can be very long. Some war memorials are dedicated to a specific battle, while others are more general in nature and bear inscriptions listing various theatres of war.
Many cemeteries tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission have an identical war memorial called the Cross of Sacrifice designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield that vary in height from 4.5m to 9m depending on the size of the cemetery. If there are one thousand or more burials, a Commonwealth cemetery will contain a Stone of Remembrance, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens with words from Ecclesiastics "THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVERMORE", all the Stones of Rememberance are all 3.5m long and 1.5m high with three steps leading up to them. Arlington National Cemetery has a Canadian Cross of Sacrifice with the names of all the citizens of the USA who lost their lives fighting for Candada during the Korean and two world wars.
Many war memorials have epitaphs relating to the unit, battle or war they commemorate. For example an epitaph which adorns numerous memorials in Commonwealth countries is "The Ode" by Laurence Binyon:
- They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
- Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
- At the going down of the sun and in the morning
- We will remember them.
- When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
- For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today
See also: Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, for listings of memorials specifically dedicated to unknown soldiers.
Famous war memorials
- Notre Dame de Lorette
- Vimy Ridge Memorial
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