In the west cloister of Westminster Abbey is a monument commemorating officers and men of the Submarine Service of the Royal Navy, the Commandos, and all ranks of the Airborne Forces and Special Air Service.
It was designed by the sculptor Gilbert Ledward, with three bronze figures in stone niches, with the dates 1939 and 1945 on tablets between. The models for the figures were serving members of the forces – the submariner was modelled on Leading Seaman Reginald Read, the Commando on Company Sergeant Major Ayres, and the representative of the Parachute Regiment was Corporal Howard Elliott. The memorial was unveiled by Winston Churchill on 21 May 1948.
Beneath the sailor is a bronze plaque with two naval badges and the inscriptions:
“To the Glory of God and in memory of the officers and men of the Submarine branch of the Royal Navy who have given their lives both in peace and war”. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death”.
Beneath the soldier are two badges and the inscriptions:
“To the Glory of God and in memory of all ranks of the Commandos who fell in the Second World War 1939-1945”. “They performed whatsoever the King commanded”.
Beneath the airman are two badges and the inscriptions:
“To the Glory of God and in memory of all ranks of the Airborne Forces and Special Air Service who fell in the Second World War 1939-1945”. “These were mighty men of valour”.
Below the SAS section a small memorial to men who served in the Long Range Desert Group was unveiled in 2013 - they supported the SAS in the early days.
Roll of Honour & Battle Honours
A Roll of Honour for Commandos is on display in a case in the nave of the Abbey and the Commando Association Battle Honours flag is framed and displayed on the wall in St George’s chapel. The Roll was pesented to the Abbey in 1949 by officers of the Commando Depot and completed though the generosity of Brigadier R.J.F.Tod.
The Queen Mother unveiled the Battle Honours on 1 May 1971 (unfortunately the dagger at the top of this frame was stolen many years ago.)
Photographs can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.
The Commando Veterans Archive maintains a fuller Roll of Honour (with amendments and additions) which can be searched online at www.commandoveterans.org