Liverpool was home to the nerve centre of the Allied operations during the battle but, incredibly, it has no dedicated national memorial – now a campaign has been launched to change that. Tony McDonough reports
Crucial to the outcome of the Second World War the Battle of the Atlantic last from 1939 to 1945 and cost an estimated 100,000 lives.
Liverpool was home to the nerve centre of the Allied operations during the battle – commemorated at the Western Approaches museum in the city centre – but, incredibly, it has no dedicated national memorial. But now a campaign has been launched to change that.
Battle of the Atlantic Memorial (BOAM), the charity leading the campaign, is looking to raise £2.5m to build a memorial on Liverpool’s world famous Pier Head. It would comprise a 8-metre monument in the shape of a merchant ship split in two.
The design is the brainchild of acclaimed sculptor Paul Day whose works include the Battle of Britain Monument and the Iraq-Afghanistan memorial, both in London.
Called the “longest, largest and most complex naval battle in history”, the Battle of the Atlantic started with the naval blockade of Germany and was followed by Germany’s subsequent counter-blockade.
It was at its height from mid-1940 through to the end of 1943 and its participants included the British Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, US Navy, Allied merchant vessels all pitted against the German Navy and the aircraft of the Luftwaffe.
BOAM chairman Vice-Admiral Mike Gretton, whose father Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Gretton served during the battle as an Atlantic Escort Group commander, said the campaign is seeking to raise £2.5m.
He said it will incorporate the existing statue of U-Boat hunter Johnnie Walker with the aim of unveiling the monument in 2019, the 80th anniversary of the start of the battle and the beginning of World War Two.
“Today marks a very big moment and is the culmination of years of planning to launch the fundraising campaign,” he said.
“We believe the memorial is best situated in Liverpool where the campaign headquarters was based, and where so many of the merchant and navy ships were built, based and repaired and – critically – from where so many of the seafarers came.
“Merseyside people understand the immensity of the Battle of the Atlantic. With Merseyside’s affinity with the maritime world, and the battle itself, we are delighted to unveil Paul Day’s design which will make such an incredible impact here on the world-famous waterfront.”
The memorial will work closely with Merseyside Maritime Museum and National Museums Liverpool as a whole to highlight the project and develop educational projects reinforcing just how fundamental the Battle of the Atlantic was to the war effort.