Aerial combat probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about the fighting in World War I but, as the Royal Air Force Memorial on Victoria Embankment records, air crew played a vital role.
The memorial features a bronze eagle perched on an orb girded with a belt depicting the signs of the zodiac which sits atop a Portland stone pylon. It was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield with the eagle, inspired by the RAF’s badge, sculpted by William Reid Dick. Along with the dedication, it carries an inscription from the Bible (Exodus 19:4) – “I bare you on eagles wings and brought you unto myself” (sic).
Various other sites were apparently considered for the memorial before the location – amid a string of other memorials between Westminster and Hungerford Bridge – was settled upon (as were other designers including the renowned Edwin Lutyens).
Unveiled on 13th July, 1923, by the Prince of Wales, the memorial was dedicated to the memory of all those who gave their lives in the ranks of the Royal Flying Corps, the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Air Force (formed through the amalgamation of the RFC and RNAS at a hotel in Strand in 1918) during World War I, along with those who had died while serving in air forces from across the British Empire.
A further dedication was later unveiled in 1946 on Battle of Britain Sunday remembering the men and women of air forces from across the Commonwealth and Empire who died during World War II.
A simple, yet still evocative, memorial.