What is a war memorial?

Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) memorials exist in order to officially record servicemen and women who died during the designated war years in service, or of causes attributable to service, and have no known grave or were buried or lost at sea.

Other war memorials can be any tangible object which has been erected or dedicated to commemorate war, conflict, victory or peace; or casualties who served in, were affected by or killed as a result of war, conflict or peacekeeping; or those who died as a result of accident or disease whilst engaged in military service.

Read the full description of what objects are recorded by IWM’s War Memorials Register.

IWM’s War Memorials Register (WMR) uses this definition to help the public and organisations identify a shared understanding of what is meant by a war memorial. Other organisations may only fund, list or identify certain types or categories of war memorial.

WMR records:

  1. memorials located in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man
  2. memorials to conflicts from any point in history to the present day
  3. memorials that commemorate the impact or acts of war, conflict or victory
  4. memorials that record thanksgiving for the safe return of individuals, the coming of peace or the prevention of war
  5. dedications that have been added to other gravestones which commemorate a war casualty buried elsewhere
  6. memorials that commemorate the service, return or death of military personnel during war, conflict or peacetime irrespective of the cause of death, as well as deaths after the end of the conflict as a result of wounds or the effects of war
  7. memorials that commemorate the wartime service or death of civilians serving in non-combatant organisations
  8. memorials that commemorate civilians, including refugees and internees who suffered or died as a result of enemy action or in a war related accident as well as a consequence of war or conflict
  9. memorials to the service, suffering and death of animals during wartime

WMR does not record:

  1. memorials located outside the UK, Channel island and Isle of Man, even if they commemorate British citizens
  2. headstones, grave-markers or memorials marking the place of burial or official commemoration of an individual or group of people killed as a result of war or conflict (including any grave, Memorial to the Missing, Cross of Sacrifice and Stone of Remembrance that is the responsibility of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission)
  3. houses, buildings or artefacts (e.g. medals) associated with people who died, served or suffered in war but which have no dedication as a memorial to that wartime experience
  4. plaques, badges, medals or symbols recognising the existence of military units solely as units but not representing their active service or a war/conflict role
  5. commemorations to those who had once served in the armed forces or in a civilian non-combatant organisation during wartime but whose death occurred subsequently and was not a result of their service
  6. dedication plaques marking wartime non-military campaigns or activities
  7. memorials, plaques, badges or symbols at the birth place, home or to the life of a well-known individual not dedicated to their wartime service
  8. published or mass produced rolls of honour
  9. individual horticultural elements within a larger horticulture setting
  10. official items such as Next of Kin Memorial Plaques (known as Dead Man’s Pennies), scrolls or service medals
  11. body art or body parts
  12. any intangible items such as events created in memory of conflict such as charity runs

What do you mean by ‘erected or dedicated’?
To be considered a memorial the object must have a clearly defined and stated commemorative purpose. This purpose can be expressed in the wording on the memorial itself or in a printed document, or it might be a newspaper announcement. A formal unveiling ceremony need not have taken place, although these are very common.

What types of events do you include within the terms ‘conflict’ or ‘war’?
Conflict/war includes formally declared states of war, armed conflict, civil war, rebellion and acts of terrorism. None of those organisations party to this definition neither makes any judgment on conflicts nor promotes any political or other viewpoint associated with either specific conflicts or the general principle of conflict.

What do you mean by military service?
Military service refers to service in any of the armed forces during war, conflict or peacetime and the subsequent return home as well as deaths after the end of the conflict as a result of wounds or the effects of war.

Do you include civilian commemorations? WMA includes commemorations to civilians

  •  who served in wartime non-combatant services including, but not exclusive to  Merchant Marine Service, Red Cross, Home Guard, Air Raid Wardens, Fire Watchers and similar groups involved with a war effort.
  • whose death occurred as a result of enemy action or in a war related accident as well as a consequence of war or conflict

What do you mean by ‘published roll of honour’?
Unique items such as a handwritten or printed scroll or illustrated book are recorded by WMA. Published rolls of honour where many copies were produced are not recorded.

What do you mean by ‘individual horticultural elements’?
Where specific planting of trees, hedging or flowers has taken place to form a memorial garden or arboretum, WMA would record the memorial as a whole. For example an avenue of trees will be recorded as a single memorial even if each tree has a separate dedication. However, if a tree is planted in isolation to any other elements, for example it is a war memorial tree in a council park the individual tree will be recorded.