Frequently asked questions
Below is a list (in alphabetical order) of the topics about which War Memorials Trust receives the most questions. Please select the relevant topic to see the associated questions and answers. If you cannot find the information you need, please contact us.
Symbols on war memorials
War Memorials Trust is often contacted for advice about adding items and ‘tokens’ to war memorials. These may include flags, flagpoles and other items related to the military, an individual commemorated on the memorial or associated with war and remembrance. In 2014 a number of enquiries were made related to the ceramic poppies displayed as part of the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation at the Tower of London.
War Memorials Trust does not recommend that additional items are fixed directly to war memorials. There are a number of reasons for this including that depending on the fixings used and the condition of the memorial, damage could be caused to the memorial; adding additional items to a memorial can detract from the focus of the memorial and its original design intention; depending on the proposed item it could also negatively impact on the appearance of the memorial and adding items sets a precedent which could negatively affect the appearance or condition of the memorial. War Memorials Trust instead recommends that it is considered whether the items are more appropriately placed elsewhere or if they can be incorporated into the wider setting of the memorial. Whether this is possible will depend on the specific situation and should not detract from the memorial or its setting.
The addition of an item to a memorial would require permission from the owner or custodian and any legal consents required, such as Listed Building Consent if the memorial is listed.
War Memorials Trust's definition of a war memorial includes additions to gravestones. These examples can be added to War Memorials Online to provide a record and condition update.
However, War Memorials Trust does not actively engage with these cases in regard to repair and conservation. Such memorials are not eligible for funding from schemes administered by the Trust. The reasons for this are that the issues surrounding additions to graves are extremely complex due to the presence of human remains and issues of ownership. Gravestones are often the responsibility of the family who may or may not be traceable and the responsibility for the site of the gravestone may not be straightforward. In addition, the memorial inscription is a very small part of the gravestone making WMT's role quite limited as funds could not be used for the whole structure but only the actual additional war memorial inscription.
Such cases can therefore be very time consuming and are difficult to find a resolution. With its limited resources WMT cannot therefore deal with the significant number of such cases. As such we are not able to help with additions to gravestones through our casework or to offer funding for their repair.
However, if you do have a concern relating to the condition of gravestones with war memorial inscriptions there may be other approaches you can take such as contacting the custodian of the cemetery and raising the concern. Caring for God’s Acre may be able to advise. In addition English Heritage has published guidance Caring for Historic Graveyard and Cemetery Monuments and Historic Scotland has published guidance Conservation of Historic Graveyards, Practitioners Guide 2.
Please see our 'Addition of names to war memorials' helpsheet for further information.
War Memorials Trust is sometimes approached for advice on the addition of non-commemorative plaques to war memorials. These include plaques marking events such as the Queen’s Jubilee and centenary of the First World War, repair or restoration projects and the funders of these.
War Memorials Trust does not believe it is appropriate for plaques to be added to war memorials that do not sympathetically reflect the original purpose of the memorial in question. This is because the intended purpose of the memorial is changed by such additions. War memorials provide a focus for commemorating those who have fought or fallen in a conflict and this importance should not be detracted from through unsympathetic additions. It is also important to remember that memorials are for the use of the whole community and their views should be consulted.
The addition of items which do not relate to the original intention of the memorial can often cause distress to the family members of those commemorated. They can also have a dramatic impact on the appearance of the memorial and it is not sustainable to continue adding plaques in such a manner once a precedent has been set.
In addition, many war memorials will be protected through the planning system, either by being within a conservation area or being a listed structure. Permission will often be required for any additions as they may cause damage to the structure by inappropriate fixings and/or materials being used, as well as altering the aesthetics of the memorial.
War memorials are historic structures that were erected by communities to commemorate the fallen. At the time, as remains the case today, decisions will have been made locally as to the appropriate form and wording of a memorial so there is no format or protocol which has to be followed.
In some cases these decisions may not appear appropriate to us when considered in a modern context. However the age of these structures and the era in which they were erected needs to be recognised when considering any changes. It is always difficult to assign modern interpretation and meaning to an historic structure as these modern viewpoints often conflict with the views, understanding and social conventions of the time. As a conservation charity War Memorials Trust feels that it is rarely appropriate to do so. Contemporary attitudes to historic terminology will also continue to change over time and it is not feasible to constantly change the wording so it is in-line with modern thinking.
For example, the use of the word ‘men’ within an inscription may today be perceived as a gender specific statement. However it should be recognised that historically the use of the word was considered gender neutral and therefore made reference to both the males and females that may be listed on the memorial.
Changes to inscriptions or names can change the focus of the memorial which was deemed appropriate by those who erected it and used it to commemorate their loved ones. It can also be detrimental to the original fabric if it requires extreme intervention. Therefore any changes should be carefully considered and Listed Building Consent may be required for any changes to listed memorials.
War Memorials Trust recommends that the wishes of those who erected the memorial are respected. Alternatives to changing the memorial directly can be considered. It may be appropriate to consider whether a nearby notice board with information may assist in addressing such issues. In some cases, such as the inclusion of formally excluded groups, the most appropriate course of action may be to create an additional memorial structure nearby. Remember, such issues can form part of education programmes around the memorial and can be highlighted in any literature that may be produced. You may find our Learning Programme (hyper link) website of assistance with this.
Ultimately any decision on changing wording lies with the custodian of the war memorial and there should be community consultation regarding any proposed changes.
Please see our 'Churches containing war memorials' helpsheet for further information.
Some war memorials in the UK are the responsibility of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). CWGC maintain and manage these memorials as part of their remit in the UK and overseas. Any concerns or queries about CWGC memorials should be addressed directly to the Commission. War Memorials Trust can assist with reporting these concerns and give advice on war memorial related issues. However as the CWGC is funded directly by the Government War Memorials Trust will not consider applications to its grant schemes for work on these memorials as it is the responsibility of the Commission to fund this work.
Please see our 'Conservation contractors' helpsheet for further information.
Please see our 'Dates on war memorials' helpsheet for further information.
Please see our 'Dedication and rededication ceremonies' helpsheet for further information.
Please see our 'Definition of a war memorial' helpsheet for further information.
Please see our 'Helping your fundraising' helpsheet for further information.
War Memorials Trust has not traditionally received any government funding. We are an independent charity and as such rely entirely on voluntary donations. However, during the centenary of World War I the charity is part of the First World War Memorials Programme and is receiving up to £3 million in one-off additional funding to support the repair and conservation of World War I memorials.
Please see our 'Researching the history of a war memorial' helpsheet for further information.
Please see our 'Importance of war memorials' helpsheet for further information.
Please see our 'Insurance for war memorials' helpsheet for further information.
Please see our 'Parliamentary Acts related to war memorials' helpsheet for further information.
War Memorials Trust only holds information about war memorials which we have helped through our grant schemes or casework. As a result the Trust does not have a definitive list of all the war memorials in the UK.
The Trust recommends contacting the UK National Inventory of War Memorials based at the Imperial War Museum (T: 020 7207 9863/9851, W: www.ukniwm.org.uk). The Inventory aims to compile a comprehensive record of all war memorials in the UK.
Please see our 'Listing war memorials' helpsheet for further information.
Please see our 'Researching the names on a war memorial' helpsheet for further information.
There may also be details on the 'Lives of the First World War' website run by the Imperial War Museums.
The National Memorial Arboretum is the UK’s living and lasting memorial to commemorate those who have served their country, died or suffered as a result of conflict. It is located on Croxall Road, Alrewas, Staffordshire DE13 7AR, T: 01283 792333, W: www.thenma.org.uk.
The Armed Forces memorial is the first national memorial dedicated to the men and women of the UK Armed Forces (Regular and Reserve) killed on duty or as a result of terrorist action since the Second World War. It is situated at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.
Although War Memorials Trust supports projects to create new war memorials, we are unfortunately no longer able to help with their funding through our grant schemes.
There is a very high demand for our grants which means that we have to prioritise those projects which we are able to support with our very limited resources. The Trust’s work must, therefore, be focused on the conservation and repair of existing war memorials.
Please see our 'New war memorials' helpsheet for further information.
War Memorials Trust’s remit only covers war memorials in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man and so we do not hold information about overseas memorials.
Although War Memorials Trust understands the significance and importance of the many overseas war memorials, we are unfortunately unable to help with the funding of their restoration and conservation through our grant schemes.
The UK National Inventory of War Memorials estimates that there are over 100,000 war memorials in the UK which means that we have to prioritise those projects which we are able to support with our limited resources. The Trust’s work must, therefore, be focused on the conservation and repair of existing war memorials in the UK only.
Please see links to the websites of memorial-related organisations which operate overseas.
Please see our 'Ownership of war memorials' helpsheet for further information.
War memorials come in many shapes and forms. Dealing with issues such as mobile phone masts would need to be assessed in relation to each case individually. However, the Trust has some principles it would follow in such instances.
Ultimately the decision about whether a mast can be located on/in/by a war memorial would be the decision of the custodians of the war memorial/owner of the land.
War Memorials Trust would encourage custodians to consider whether the mast would:
- cause any damage to the physical memorial
- impact upon the setting of the memorial
- impact upon the experience of those visiting the memorial to pay their respects
Some examples of cases where this issue might arise include:
- war memorial parks/fields – a mast placed within a green space is unlikely to impact upon the war memorial itself. Examples of when War Memorials Trust would be concerned would be if installing a mast prevented permanent access to the land which prevented the park/field fulfilling its function as an accessible war memorial or if any war memorial elements were to be removed or damaged to facilitate the mast e.g. felling of commemorative trees or removal of dedicated benches
- war memorial clock-towers – masts can be installed in church towers which may include places where war memorial clocks and clock-towers are located as part of the church. Examples of when War Memorials Trust would be concerned would be if installing masts changed the appearance of the war memorial element or prevents the war memorial clock from working
- freestanding war memorials – a mast placed next to a cenotaph, obelisk or cross would cause War Memorials Trust concern if it detracted from the setting of the memorial and or prevents people from visiting the memorial, for example if a mast was installed next to a war memorial situated in a picturesque location on top of a hill
If you would like to share photographs of your war memorial then we encourage you to upload these to War Memorials Online. The website is seeking to create greater understanding of the condition of war memorials across the UK and anyone can upload information, photographs and complete condition surveys.
Please see our 'Planning in England and Wales' helpsheet for further information
War Memorials Trust has published guidance with English Heritage and Historic Scotland on how to prevent theft from war memorials and what to do if a theft has occured. The guidance is also applicable in Wales.
Please see our 'War Memorial Theft' helpsheet for further information.
QR codes can be an innovative way of allowing people to engage with a memorial. In particular it allows for a potentially large amount of information on the history of a memorial and those commemorated on it to be readily accessible. This helps to ensure people are aware of the purpose of the memorial. In addition, helpful information such as custodian details or information about a current or previous repair project could be included, for example through a link to War Memorials Online or War Memorials Trust’s Grants Showcase. The benefit of a QR code is that this large amount of information can be accessible without being invasive to the memorial or significantly affecting its setting, which is not always possible with traditional interpretation boards.
However, War Memorials Trust does not support the addition of the code to the memorial itself (including its railings or boundary features). There are a number of reasons for this including the potential damage to the memorial through fixing the code as well as the impact upon the appearance of the memorial. It is possible that listed memorials would require Listed Building Consent for such an addition. Therefore, it is recommended that a suitable and sensitive location near the memorial is used to display the code. The options will vary depending on the type of memorial and its location but something unobtrusive and non-permanent is usually recommended, for example a QR code for an external memorial could be displayed on a simple wooden stake nearby. This is something which could be removed if required without disturbing the memorial in any way and causing minimum intervention to its surroundings.
There is further guidance on the Trust’s website regarding the addition of non-commemorative plaques to war memorials.
War Memorials Trust only holds information about war memorials which we have helped through our grant schemes or casework. As a result the Trust does not have a definitive list of all the war memorials in the UK nor those commemorated on them.
The Trust would recommend contacting the UK National Inventory of War Memorials based at the Imperial War Museum (T: 020 7207 9863/9851, W: www.ukniwm.org.uk). The Inventory aims to compile a comprehensive record of all war memorials in the UK and maybe able to provide the location details of war memorials which could potentially feature a relative’s name (e.g. war memorials in the area where the relative lived or worked, regimental war memorials, work place memorials, etc).
Please see our 'Relocation of war memorials' helpsheet for further information. Please note that War Memorials Trust can only provide advice about relocation and is unable to take on any memorials or relocate them.
War Memorials Trust believes it is important to respect the choices made by the family and friends of those remembered on the memorials. Those who lost loved ones chose memorials they felt were appropriate and mourned their loss at these memorials, which replaced the graves of those buried overseas. Therefore the historic integrity of a memorial should be respected and the same materials used where possible.
The use of different materials to replace metal has to be approached cautiously and with due consideration. Using alternatives to metal may speed up the process of decay or weathering. Materials may have been interacting chemically for many years and suddenly changing this combination may have a negative effect on what remains causing the memorials to decay at greater speed.
Alternatives may not last as longer as metal and whilst initially cheaper (although not in all cases), regular replacement may end up being more expensive in the long-run. Research is ongoing by different groups into the viability of alternatives but as yet there is no clear answer meaning that alternatives may have as many risks as the metal option. The Trust is aware of recent cases of attempted theft of metal substitute plaques which still results in damage to the memorial. There is also an aesthetic impact on the memorial as a whole and adding an alternative material may negatively impact the appearance of the memorial.
We understand that people may fear further thefts but replacing with an inferior substitute can feel like letting the criminals win. War Memorials Trust believes there are precautions that can be taken to deter theft and prevent further attacks. In Memoriam 2014 is an opportunity for local communities to protect their war memorials with SmartWater, free of charge thanks to the SmartWater Foundation. Custodians should apply at www.inmemoriam2014.org to obtain the SmartWater to use to mark the metal elements on their war memorial. In addition, War Memorials Trust publishes a helpsheet on preventing theft which can be downloaded from our website. This gives advice and guidance enabling local communities to take control and act to protect their war memorials. Please also see our ‘Conservation principles’ helpsheet which outlines the importance of like-for-like replacement in further detail.
In extreme cases where a memorial is subject to repeated vandalism or theft the Trust recommends that any alternative materials used are ‘traditional’. The Trust does not recommend or support replacement of stolen metal with resin replica substitutes. Instead, depending on the memorial, a matching stone plaque may be more appropriate.
It is important to note that if a memorial is listed, listed building consent will be required for alterations to materials.
Please see our 'War memorials for sale' helpsheet for further information.
War memorials take a huge variety of forms. Designs were, and are, chosen by local communities or committees acting on behalf of those who funded the memorial. Many war memorials have symbolic imagery in the form of sculpture, detail or carving.
Some war memorials carry what might be seen as strange or even offensive symbolism. For example there are a number of war memorials which carry swastikas including that outside Balmoral. The Balmoral memorial, like many, was erected after World War I and included the swastika as a traditional symbol normally associated with good fortune or “well-being”. Clearly the swastika is an example of how the perception of a symbol has changed radically and today some may feel uncomfortable with it on a war memorial.
However, whilst some designs may seem inappropriate today they are part of a memorial’s history. Communities such as that at Balmoral have added World War II names to World War I memorials carrying swastikas which shows that the community felt their pre-existing choices should be respected rather than allowing others to take ownership of a symbol chosen by those who designed the memorial.
War Memorials Trust believes it is important that the original designs and choices of those who erected memorials are respected. Communities should be careful when considering alterations as they are changing history. We are custodians of our memorials for those who erected them and for those who come after – we should avoid current perceptions or opinions influencing alternations. It is worth recognising that unusual symbols or details can be used to engage people with their local war memorial heritage and be understood through research and information sharing especially with young people.
As far as War Memorials Trust is aware work to the existing fabric of a memorial is usually subject to VAT. Any new memorial will be subject to VAT. The Customs and Excise VAT Notice 708: Buildings and Construction (March 1995) is a useful guide and we recommend anyone with a query about VAT discusses this using the helpline below. With regards to our grant schemes, War Memorials Trust will offer a grant based on the assumption that all work is liable to VAT, unless applicants tell us that they are able to reclaim some or all of the VAT (this should be investigated before applying for a grant).
For further information about whether or not you can reclaim VAT, the Trust suggests contacting the HM Revenue and Customs national advice service helpline on 0845 010 9000 or visit www.hmrc.gov.uk.
Additionally, the Memorials Grant Scheme may be of use. The scheme is currently confirmed until 31st March 2015. From 1st June 2014 the provider of the scheme has changed so you should check the contact details on the website before submitting an application.
The Memorials Grant Scheme returns as a grant the VAT incurred by charities or faith groups exempted from the need to register as charities in building, repairing or maintaining public memorial structures. Eligible memorials must be recognised as memorials (rather than, say, statues) by means of an appropriate permanent inscription. Memorials can be to a person, people, animals or events. Eligible structures cannot have any secondary purpose, e.g. memorial benches are not covered. Gravestones, mausolea or any structure which houses or indicates the whereabouts of remains are considered ineligible. Memorials must be publicly accessible for a minimum of 30 hours per week, even if an entrance fee is payable to gain access (e.g. at an English Heritage site). Details on eligibility can be found at www.memorialgrant.org.uk. As of October 2013, professional fees are also eligible under this scheme. Any group that is planning a large memorial project is advised to contact the scheme in advance to discuss eligibility.
Please note that of 1st April 2012 there will be major changes to the administration of the scheme. There will be quarterly fixed budgets for the scheme and so payments will be made once a quarter. The payable rate will depend on the value of eligible claims received in that quarter, with each claim attracting a fair pro-rata payment. The maximum grant payable in response to any application will be 20% of project costs. Please see the website for further details www.memorialgrant.org.uk. In regards to the assessment of grants administered by the Trust, in terms of calculating eligible grant costs we will continue to assume that eligible applicants can reclaim their VAT costs under the scheme and therefore exclude VAT from eligible costs. We are unable to increase grant awards if it is subsequently not possible to reclaim the full VAT.
Although War Memorials Trust understands that some headstones in UK Churchyards and cemeteries make reference to military service and involvement in wars or conflicts, we are unfortunately unable to help with the funding of their restoration and conservation when they mark the spot where the body is buried.
The UK National Inventory of War Memorials estimates that there are over 100,000 war memorials in the UK, and this does not include headstones which make reference to wars or conflicts and mark where the body is present. The Trust has to prioritise those projects which we are able to support with our limited resources. Our work, therefore, focuses on the conservation and repair of existing war memorials in the UK only.
Please see our 'Definition of a war memorial' helpsheet for further information.
To commemorate the centenary of the First World War the government will issue over 400 commemorative paving stones to communities of VC holders. Communities will be deciding where to locate these stones and the war memorial may be considered an option.
In general, War Memorials Trust does not recommend that these paving stones are added directly to existing war memorials or within their boundary, for example as a replacement for existing paving. This is because the nature of the inscriptions may not match the existing memorial; also the existing paving may have its own merit as well as forming part of the design of the memorial. In addition, the materials the new paving stone is made from may not be the same as the existing memorial or paving so its introduction may result in a visual change or physical damage to the original paving, or to the memorial itself.
As the nature and style of war memorials vary it may be appropriate in some cases for a paving stone to be added to the area immediately surrounding a memorial but if you are considering this we recommend you contact the Trust for advice. Furthermore, many memorials are listed structures and therefore the local authority should be consulted to check if any consents are required before embarking on a project. Communities may however wish to add the paving stone near or adjacent to a war memorial to retain the link between the two.
When installing a VC paving stone, War Memorials Trust recommends that considerations should be given to not locating it on a main walkway as the inscriptions will wear quickly if they are walked over and some people may consider such use as disrespectful and that there should also be space for people to gather for services and to lay flowers.
War Memorials Trust is unable to fund the installation of VC paving stones.
For further information on these paving stones you should contact the Department for Communities and Local Government who are leading this initiative.
Please see our 'Wreaths and war memorials' helpsheet for further information.
War Memorials Trust operates in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man in regards to both its casework and grant schemes. The Trust does not hold information on overseas war memorials and is unable to provide advice or grants for these.