THE INTERNATIONAL MEMORIAL FOR THE BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC 1939-45

The Battle of the Atlantic was the dominating factor all through the war.  Never for one moment could we forget that everything happening elsewhere, on land at sea or in the air, depended ultimately on its outcome.”—Winston Churchill

Churchill

Background

The Battle of the Atlantic was the most important campaign of World War II as, without success, other campaigns would have not been possible, particularly the landings in Europe in June 1944. It was the longest continuous campaign of the war, lasting from the declaration of war in 1939 until Victory in Europe in May 1945.

The toll was high on all sides:  more than 3,500 merchant ships were sunk; over 36,000 merchant seamen and 36,200 allied naval personnel lost their lives; and 70% of German submariners did not return to their home bases.

Despite its significance, the Battle of the Atlantic does not have an overall memorial in the United Kingdom unlike other major campaigns of World War 2.  Thus, a project has been set up to create an appropriate memorial and fill that gap. As the number of surviving veterans of that generation dwindle, it is important that we create a reminder in perpetuity of the losses and hard learned lessons of that campaign and the Second World War in general.  We want the memorial to be a defining symbol of remembrance that recognises those personal sacrifices and serves as a reminder of the high cost and incalculable value of peace.

The concept of a memorial to the Battle of the Atlantic is not new because an earlier project sought to purchase HMS Whimbrel, a surviving Battle of the Atlantic escort vessel which had been sold to Egypt in 1949. The plan had been to repatriate the vessel to the United Kingdom and fit her out as a living memorial to the campaign berthed in Liverpool.  Sadly, after many years of negotiation, the Egyptians would still not agree a price so that project was wound up in 2015. In its place, a new project emerged under the Chairmanship of Vice Admiral Mike Gretton whose father, Commander Peter Gretton (later Vice Admiral Sir Peter Gretton) was a renowned convoy escort commander and now succeeded by Gary Doyle a former Royal Navy Commodore and now the Group Harbour Master of Peel Ports.

Concept

The concept of this project is to establish a land-based memorial in the vicinity of the Pier Head at Liverpool.  In addition to commemorating the Battle of the Atlantic and all its participants on land sea and in the air, this memorial will have an important educational role, informing the public – particularly young people – about the Battle of the Atlantic and its vital significance.  This will be achieved by working closely with the nearby Merseyside Maritime Museum which already has a gallery specifically dedicated to the Battle of the Atlantic. With further enhancement, the Museum will be developed into an academic centre where institutions, researchers and interested parties can visit to access information and learn more about the Battle.

It is intended that this will be a truly international memorial and appropriate recognition of participants will include:

  • The British and Allied Merchant Navies noting that seafarers from all over the world served in these ships.
  • The British Armed Forces - Royal Navy and Royal Marines, the Army and the Royal Air Force.
  • Civilian support ashore.
  • Allied Armed Forces including Canada, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Poland, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, the Soviet Union and the United States.
  • Former adversaries -  Germany, Italy.

The bravery and dedication of all these peoples and nations will be commemorated in the city which was at the heart of the effort in the UK, Liverpool.  The Command Headquarters of the campaign was in Liverpool and many of the warships and merchant vessels were based there.

Management

The Project is registered as a charity with the Charity Commission and is supported by a Board of Trustees. The Board is chaired by Mr Gary Doyle (Group Harbour Master Peel Ports) supported by 8 other Trustees from across the business world.

Progress to date

The charity is honoured to announce that HRH The Princess Royal, has become its Patron. It has been very clear that The Princess Royal has a deep respect for the Battle of the Atlantic and a real interest in the campaign. For Her Royal Highness to express her support for the memorial by becoming our Royal Patron is a tremendous honour, and a testament to how much The Princess genuinely cares about seafarers and the immense contribution made by all British, Commonwealth and Allied participants without whom the country would not have been able to arm or feed itself.

Finances

The fund has recently explored a variety of ways to develop an appropriate memorial and has investigated different fundraising options. Whilst other memorials have benefitted from government funding through the LIBOR fines scheme this is no longer open. The Trustees have therefore re-evaluated their approach and restructured accordingly. We are very grateful to those who have contributed funds so far and in the next six months we are looking to establish relationships with core fundamental supporters who wish to help with our wider fundraising and project definition stages.

Way forward

We aim to implement the memorial programme in 2023, which will mark the eightieth anniversary of what is generally acknowledged as one of the key turning points of the Battle, when convoy ONS–5 survived a concerted attack from over 40 U-boats with the loss of only 13 ships totalling 63,000 tons, whilst the escorts had inflicted the loss of 6 U-boats, and serious damage to 7 more.

The memorial will work closely with the Museum of the Western Approaches, Merseyside Maritime Museum, National Museums Liverpool and Liverpool City Council and other groups to build a BOA heritage trail around Merseyside and develop educational projects for schools, colleges and Universities. It is also hoped to develop an international flavour with links to projects and memorials in other countries to recognise the true spirit of cooperation and effort of this battle. In addition, we will be running a competition to select the design of an appropriate memorial for the Liverpool waterfront and the National Arboretum as well as scoping out our education and engagement activities.

The campaign has made contact with a number of countries notably the United States where it has won support from the British Embassy and also the American Merchant Marine Veterans and Project Liberty Ship in Maryland. The campaign is now seeking to engage other nations who played a key role in the Battle of the Atlantic both Navy and merchant seamen including Australia, Poland, Norway, the Netherlands, France, China, India Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada.

In 2020 we will launch our wider public fundraising and engagement campaign.

Donors to date

Bathgate Charitable Trust
Lord Liverpool
RNR Officer's Club Liverpool - The Sea Urchins
Mrs Jean Milne
Britannia’s Gold Ltd.
Richard Lovegrove Esq.
Maritime Air Trust
Clive & Sylvia Richards Trust
Trinity House
Gosling Foundation
Worshipful Company of Fuellers
Honourable Company of Air Pilots
Charles Crewdson Esq.
Mrs Lynda Murphy
Manchester Naval Officers’ Association
John Williamson Esq.
Mrs Pamela Rees
Mrs Ann Hawkins
Professor Dick Clements
The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity
Flower Class Corvette Association
Nautilus Welfare Fund
Merchant Navy Association Wirral Branch
RFA Association NW Group