Welsh Icons-Buildings/Structures
Welsh National War Memorial






Photograph © Sean Bolton

Welsh National War Memorial, Cardiff
The Welsh National War Memorial is situated in Alexandra Gardens, Cathays Park, Cardiff. The memorial was designed by Sir Ninian Comper and unveiled in June 1928 by the Prince of Wales. The memorial commemorates the servicemen who died during the First World War and has a plaque for those who died during the Second World War, added in 1949.

The memorial takes the form of a circular colonnade surrounding a sunken court. On the frieze above the columns are inscriptions in Welsh, on the outer side, and in English, on the inner side. The English inscription was composed by Comper himself. At the centre of the court is a group of bronze sculptures by Alfred Bertram Pegram, arranged around a stone pylon. Around the base stand three figures, a soldier, sailor and airman, holding wreaths aloft. There are appropriate inscriptions above the figures e.g. 'Over the sea he went to die', above the sailor. Above them, crowning the structure, is a winged male nude representing Victory.

The memorial is the only secular work by Comper, who was primarily a furnisher of churches. He received much hostility, from the president of the Royal Institute of British Architects and others, for not being a qualified architect, but was supported by the sculptors Sir William Goscombe John and Sir Hamo Thornycroft. The memorial's form was inspired by two visits to French North Africa and particularly Tunisia, where the architect was inspired by the public works erected by the emperor Hadrian. In order for Pegram to find a model for the bronzes, the crews of two battleships were invited to the Union Jack Club in Waterloo, London. The sculptor selected a young sailor called Fred Barker, who modelled in the nude and in uniform.

A number of other war memorials can also be found in Alexandra Gardens. These include one to Raoul Wallenberg who was a Swedish Ambassador in Hungary and saved 100,000 people by issuing them with Swedish passports enabling them to flee to safety. A recent addition is for the men of Cardiff who were killed in action during the Falklands War. A new memorial has also recently been built dedicated to the men from the International Brigade who fought in the Spanish Civil War.


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