What is a war memorial?

There is no legal definition of a war memorial and people interpret what a war memorial is in many different ways. A simple definition of what a war memorial means for this project is as follows:

Any physical object created, erected or installed to commemorate those involved in or affected by war or conflict. This includes memorials to civilians and animals.

Any object can be created or adapted to be a war memorial and examples include crosses, lychgates, stained glass windows and even lighthouses. In addition, a memorial can be something more abstract such as a school prize. More detailed information on 'what is a war memorial?' and the many types of war memorial can be found under:


Unclear areas and items that are not war memorials
Defining a war memorial is not necessarily straightforward. This section seeks to highlight some of those areas which can cause debate. War Memorials Online will make assessments on a case-by-case basis when records are highlighted that may or may not be war memorials.

War memorials:

  • Addition to a gravestone: Where a person is recorded on a gravestone (usually a family gravestone) but their body is not present then that addition is seen as a war memorial and can be included on this website. While we would like additions to gravestones to be included on War Memorials Online, where they are reported as being in Poor or Very bad condition, War Memorials Trust cannot take any further action. For explanation please see the Trust’s website
  • Memorial plaques to individuals who were killed in conflict or on active service are treated as war memorials if the primary intent is commemorations of the death or service. Plaques which include reference to death or service but have a different primary intent are not war memorials e.g. road signs to military pilots are in the first instance road signs, not war memorials; blue plaques have a primary purpose of commemorating someone living at that location rather than being war memorials. Neither of these examples would be considered war memorials
  • War memorials can be to individuals or groups.

Case-by-case review:

  • Memorials to a person’s life: Many statues and plaques are created to record an individual and their life. Often these will make reference to military service or participation in conflict. Where the service or conflict is not the primary reason for the memorial being erected it is unlikely this would be seen as a war memorial. For example a memorial to Edith Cavell is recognised as a war memorial because it was erected to commemorate her death due to helping soldiers during conflict. In comparison a memorial to an individual who served in World War 1 but which listed other achievements and accomplishments over a life-time would not be recognised as a war memorial as it was erected primarily to commemorate the individual. If you are not sure whether or not a memorial to an individual can be counted as a war memorial, please get in touch
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries, memorials and graves: Items managed by the CWGC are owned by them. Any works undertaken are paid for by them. Whilst some of their items are war memorials many of the crosses, cenotaphs etc are cemetery features rather than war memorials. As stated below any graves are excluded from the definition of a war memorial.

Not war memorials and any records will be removed from this site if added:

  • Graves: If the body of the person commemorated is present at a site then this is a grave not a war memorial. Additions to gravestones that commemorate someone buried elsewhere can be counted as war memorials.
  • Objects which are not primarily war memorials: some objects such as street signs, benches etc are erected with a primary purpose of providing information or seating. A military association may be added but it is not the primary purpose. If the intent when erected was not as a war memorial then the Trust is unlikely to consider them war memorials.
  • Published or mass produced rolls of honour. Whilst some communities commissioned their own individual Rolls of Honour which are war memorials, there were also Rolls of Honour which were mass produced and not dedicated to any particular place or group. Generally they can be identified with the heading ‘For King and Country’ under ‘Roll of Honour’ and the relevant town/village/church will have been filled in by hand under ‘Place’. If you are unsure, please send a photograph to conservation@warmemorials.org and we can help
  • Regimental colours/standards/flags/ensigns: At the end of their life ‘colours’ are often laid up in churches or museums. Unless they are specifically dedicated as a war memorial then these are merely associated with the Regiment and are not deemed war memorials per se.
  • Standardly issued items: Items issued by government or organisations in recognition of acts or sites associated with conflict. These might include; soldier silhouettes, Dead Man’s Penny, Discharge certificate, a plaque to remember Warship or Weapons Week, Airfields, WW1 Victoria Cross Commemorative Paving Stones, poppies from installations such as the WWI centenary Blood Swept Lands or an individual’s medals. Whilst these have an important association with conflict they are not seen as war memorials under the terms of this website. Some may be recorded elsewhere by other organisations.


Report a memorial which is not a war memorial
If you believe that an item listed on War Memorials Online is not a war memorial then please report this by selecting ‘Report inappropriate record’ and then 'Remove record'. This will remove the record from the website so please make sure you are certain that it is not before doing so. If you are unsure whether or not any item is a war memorial, please get in touch

Latest Activity Feed
There is no activity to show