Restoring Chatham Naval Memorial - Our work continues

Our grand naval memorials in the UK stand in commanding positions, but this also exposes them to the elements. The Chatham Naval Memorial is currently undergoing restoration work to conserve this important piece of our global estate.

The paving that surrounds the memorial has being completely cleaned, realigned and repointed – and with nearly 3km worth of repointing to complete, it’s no small task.

As well as restoring the stonework we’re working on the bronze commemorative panels that bear the names of more than 18,000 naval war dead.

Before and after, 3km of repointing was needed to fully restore the memorial’s paving

Still to this day errors and omissions are found in our 1.7 million casualty records. When new discoveries coincide with restoration projects like this, we can update the physical panels to reflect our ever-evolving roll of honour.

The amendments and additions to the names in Chatham have already been completed by metalwork experts. Now the final stage of this project will see the panels cleaned, treated and patinated with wax to leave a protective layer on the metal.

Back on tour

Travel restrictions have had a huge impact on parts of our organisation. One of the teams which has had to adapt is the group tasked with covering the whole of the Americas, from our Canadian head office in Ottawa.

They’re responsible for surveying and maintaining almost 21,000 war graves, 42 structures and two memorials, spread across an entire continent. In addition, they’re contracted to survey a further 68,000 veteran graves for Veterans Affairs Canada, in the province of Ontario.

As lockdown restrictions relaxed, our Canada team prepped for a busy inspection season in Ontario

Thankfully, this is where they are now safely able to return to work. Ontario contains the highest concentration of war graves in the Americas and our team have worked quickly to make up for lost time, before the harsh Canadian winter sets in.

Methodically, they work their way from site to site, keeping a record of every grave’s condition. Minor repairs and cleaning are dealt with there and then. More specialist work is arranged through local partners.

Minor cleaning work such as at this site in Eastern Ontario is quickly dealt with.

Most cemeteries are well kept by the local authorities, but the prevalence of flat grave markers provides an extra challenge. The harsh freeze and thaw of the seasons here can easily lead this type of marker to sink in just one year.

Finding these by sight alone can be challenging, and the GPS locations in our database are constantly being refined to ensure markers that do suffer over the winter can be found and restored.

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