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More than 2,500 war memorials listed to commemorate WW1 centenary

First World War Memorials Programme, School Workshop, John Randall Primary School and Nursery, Queen Street, Madeley, Telford

More than 2,500 war memorials across the country have been listed over the past four years as Historic England completes a project to commemorate the First World War centenary.

Following the war, tens of thousands of memorials were built, the majority paid for by money raised locally, and huge crowds of emotional people turned out at unveilings.

Throughout the centenary period Historic England has been working in partnership with War Memorials Trust, IWM, Civic Voice, volunteers and school children across the country to better understand these important local landmarks and protect them for the future.

Before the project began there were more listed telephone boxes (2,486) than war memorials (1,657).

Over 50 of the listings were put forward by university students working with Civic Voice. Groups of children from Heritage Schools have also done the research for 11 memorials that were listed and learned why they were so important for communities after the war.

Memorials include one in Kent that commemorates an explosion on the Explosives Loading Company site on the remote sea marsh of Uplees, Kent, killed 108 and injured 64.

It shattered windows in Southend-on-Sea 15 miles away across the Thames estuary, shook Norwich over 100 miles away and was even heard in France.

Government censorship and a press blackout, for fear of alerting the enemy, ensured that the disaster was barely reported and it remained one of the best-kept secrets of the First World War. The accident caused the second highest number of casualties in the British explosives industry’s 450-year history.

Another unique memorial is the Promenade de Verdun memorial, which is a road lined with Lombardy poplars and grows in a mixture of French and English soil.

The French soil, taken from a battlefield where the English and French had fought side-by-side in late 1914, was so full of shrapnel and bullets from the battlefield that it had to be sifted to deter souvenir hunters from damaging the trees. 

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England said: ‘The stories behind these memorials are very moving and each one tells us how devastating the First World War was for communities across the country.

‘Over a million Britons lost their lives during the war and it’s important that their sacrifice and struggle is not forgotten. By protecting and repairing war memorials we are ensuring that we remember them for years to come.’

The number of newly listed memorials by region is below:

Yorkshire 107; North West 247; North East 167; West Midlands 190; East Midlands 283; East of England 516; South West 520; South East 391; London 202

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