A campaign has been launched to raise £2.5mn to build a national Battle of the Atlantic Memorial at the Pier Head in Liverpool.
This was the longest battle of the Second World War, which started on Sept 3, 1939, and ended on May 8, 1945. It was fought to ensure that vital supplies reached Britain and the merchant ships had to battle against German and Italian submarines, surface warships and aircraft. The term ‘Battle of Britain’ was coined by Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill in February, 1941, and it has been called ‘the longest, largest and most complex naval battle in history’.
The memorial has been designed by sculptor Paul Day, who also created the Battle of Britain Memorial and the Iraq-Afghanistan Memorial in London. The memorial will be 28m/91ft and in the shape of a merchant ship split in two. Each half will weigh between 10 and 15 tons and will be hollow with a stainless-steel armature and bronze cladding.
The charity behind the campaign is the Battle of the Atlantic Memorial (BOAM) and the chairman is Vice-Admiral Mike Gretton, whose father Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Gretton served during the battle as an Escort Group commander. The memorial will incorporate the existing statue of Captain Johnnie Walker, the most famous commander of an anti- U-boat escort group during the battle. He commanded the 2nd Escort Group, based at Liverpool.
The BOAM said it is impossible to say how many died during the battle, but an estimated 26,500 British merchant seamen and more than 23,000 Royal Navy personnel were lost. Around 3,500 British merchant ships were sunk. Launching the campaign in January, Vice-Adm Gretton said it was hoped to unveil the memorial in 2019, the 80th anniversary of the start of the battle. He said: “The memorial is best situated in Liverpool where the campaign headquarters was based and from where so many of the merchant and naval ships were based and repaired and from where so many of the seafarers came from.
“The memorial will recognise all the nations who took part and will act as a permanent reminder of the incalculable value of peace for future generations.”
He said the memorial will recognise the efforts of British and Allied Merchant Navies and armed forces including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, the Soviet Union and the United States. The memorial will also commemorate the thousands of seafarers from around the world who served in the Allied Merchant Navies and armed forces, including India and China. Vice-Adm Gretton said the former adversaries of Germany and Italy will be recognised to underline the importance of peace.
Merseyside Maritime Museum and National Museums Liverpool will develop educational projects about the battle and the memorial will be located on National Museums Liverpool land and between the Museum of Liverpool and the River Mersey.