'Once in a generation' restoration of memorial to seafarers of World War Two

A ‘once in a generation’ restoration project has been completed on a memorial paying tribute to 1,400 seafarers from Liverpool who died during World War Two.

The Liverpool Naval Memorial, located at the centre of the city’s dockyard looking over the Mersey, had started to deteriorate after many years of exposure to the elements.

Two half-tonne Portland stone globes, which bear maritime designs, were replaced after some impressive craftsmanship from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s stonemasons.

With no blueprints, the stonemasons spent two weeks carefully tracing every millimetre of the intricate designs to hand-carve like for like replacements.

The stonework took more than four months to complete. 

“The Liverpool Naval Memorial has pride of place at the heart of the city’s docks, a fitting location to remember these 1,400 men who took to the seas and sadly never returned," James King, director of Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s UK and Northern Area, said.

“However, this location on the banks of the Mersey means the stone takes a battering from the elements and it’s important we care for this memorial and its intricate design features.

“This project really was a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our stonemasons to show the kind of skills it takes to preserve our heritage.”

The memorial was originally unveiled in 1952 and remembers local men but also crews from around the world who supported the Royal Navy during the war.
It was opened as a single point to remember the missing dead of the Merchant Navy who served under Royal Navy command.

They came from more than 120 different ships ranging from ocean liners to rescue tugs that had all been requisitioned to help the war effort.

In particular, many served on escorts which protected the all-important merchant shipping that kept Britain from starvation while German warships patrolled the Atlantic.

Among those remembered on the Liverpool Naval Memorial is Carpenter Walter Bradley.

Born and bred in Liverpool, Walter served in the First World War with the Royal Navy and survived being torpedoed three times. He returned and raised a family of six daughters with his wife Lillian.

By 1939 he was working as a joiner and at the outbreak of the Second World War he volunteered to serve his country once again. This time he joined the Merchant Navy aboard HMS Jervis Bay, a ship that escorted vital cargo across the Atlantic.

In October 1940 Jervis Bay left Canada for Liverpool as the sole escort of a convoy of 37 ships. In the mid-Atlantic they encountered the German warship Albert Scheer on 5 November 1940. The commander of Jervis Bay Captain Edward Fegen decided to steer their ship directly towards the enemy to give the convoy – including civilians and supplies – time to scatter.

The sacrifice of HMS Jervis Bay and one of the convoy ships, SS Beaverford, gave just enough time for the majority of the convoy to escape unharmed.

Sadly, Walter was one of 190 aboard Jervis Bay who died in the ship’s efforts to protect others. He was 44 years old. Walter and 85 of his shipmates who died in that attack will forever be remembered on the Liverpool Naval Memorial.

 

This project really was a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our stonemasons to show the kind of skills it takes to preserve our heritage.

James King, director of Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s UK and Northern Area