Caption: Celtic Cross, Iona. An example of a free standing public war memorial.

Over time, many types of memorial have been erected to commemorate battles and to remember the fallen from conflicts. 

Many war memorials were erected following the First World War, as a way for communities throughout the country to express their grief over the lives that were lost in the war.

Although war memorials are often built as free standing structures in public places, many memorials can be found inside churches, town halls, memorial halls or places of work and recreation.

A unique example of a war memorial is the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle, as it consists of an entire building, Its scale and splendour is representative of its significance as a national memorial.

War memorials serve many functions and are valued by different groups for different reasons. As a visual reminder of the loss of life associated with war, they are a focal point for commemoration on events such as Armistice Day. In some cases, war memorials have become visitor attractions or places of pilgrimage and as such may have a value to the community beyond their immediate purpose. Additionally, war memorials play an important educational role as they can help people learn about the nation and how wars have shaped world history.

War memorials are sobering reminders of the sacrifices that ordinary people in two world wars and numerous other conflicts, but they also collectively represent a fine example of largely 19th and 20th century art and architecture. There is a remarkable range of forms and styles of war memorials, from simple plaques to statues, windows, bells, clocks, organs, gardens, memorial gates or even entire buildings and sites.  

The most frequent monuments found in Scotland are monuments built of stone, often with metal elements. In external monuments, names of the fallen are typically carved either directly into the stone, picked out in lead, or incised, cast or embossed panels fixed to the stone. War memorials are also found inside buildings. These are typically stone, timber and metal panels fixed to walls and may be painted, gilded or have inlaid or incised lettering.

There are thousands of war memorials throughout Scotland and these monuments are important primarily for the function they serve as a physical records of those who died for their country and the importance of their sacrifice, but their value as monuments and as art is also important. Understanding how to care for these monuments is essential for their long term survival.

For more information about war memorials and guidelines for their conservation and maintenance, you can access our Short Guide 3: The Repair and Maintenance of War Memorials from our website. 

You can order a free hard copy of the publication by emailing us on technicaleducation@hes.scot  

For more information about available funding for the repair and maintenance of war memorials visit the War Memorials Trust website.

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