Westminster Abbey Memorial

The Combined Services Memorial at Westminster Abbey was unveiled on the 21st May 1948 by the Right Honourable Sir Winston Churchill KG PC.

 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.

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.

A thanksgiving service with dedication of the Battle Honours Flag took place on the 15th April 1961.

The Laying Up of the Flag, unveiled by The Queen Mother, was on the 1st May 1971 (unfortunately the dagger at the top of this frame was stolen many years ago.)

Each year there is a small informal wreath laying Sevice at this Memorial. The service, arranged by the London branch of the Commando Veterans Association, usually is at 2pm on the Saturday of Remembrance weekend. Use the Contact Form, selecting the category Association Events, to ask for confirmation of this year's timings.
View Images of the Laying up of the Battle Honours Flag in 1971
View Images of the Wreath Laying Services

Source: Westminster Abbey 

15th April 1961 Dedication of the Commando Association Battle Honours Flag at Westminster Abbey. Narrated by Henry Brown OBE.


Westminster Abbey wreath laying

Saturday, November 7, 2020 - 14:00 to 14:30
Combined Services Memorial

This is a short, small and informal annual Service on the Saturday of Remembrance weekend at the Combined Services Memorial located within The Cloisters at Westminster Abbey. Commando Association members or Commando veterans who wish to attend should contact the London Branch Sec, David Justice, for more [email protected]
Visit the Abbey's own website page for the Memorial [HERE].

The Westminster Abbey Memorial models

Extract from the Dundee Evening Telegraph - Saturday 17 August 1946

Mr Gilbert Ledward, R.A., picked a real commando for his model for a bronze figure he is sculpting for the commando memorial in Westminster Abbey.  The model was Company Sergeant Major Ayres, who was in several raids on the Norwegian coast *.

Mr Ledward is now finishing the clay model for a second figure, that of a parachutist. Model for this is 23-year-old Corporal H. Elliott, who wears the famous red beret when is walking out. In full parachutist's equipment and carrying a sten gun, he poses for five or six hours every day at Mr Ledward's studio.  He finds it a little tiring, but nothing at all compared with the crossing of the Rhine, in which took part.

The third figure will represent a sailor in the submarine service. Mr Ledward has not yet started work on this, and the model has not been chosen.

The three figures will commemorate men who volunteered for some of the war's toughest assignments. Sculptor Ledward, a gunner in World War I, has been at work since Christmas on the volunteers' memorial which will stand in the Abbey cloisters. Each of the figures will about three feet high, and Mr. Ledward has designed limestone setting for them to blend with the cloister walls. He does not expect to finish the memorial until next year.  The clay modelling for each figure takes from three to four months, and the casting in bronze also a long job.

Dundee Evening Telegraph
British Newspaper Archive (website britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk); The British Library Board.
* There was an SQMS R.B. Ayres BEM, who served in 12 Commando and 4 Commando Brigade

Speech by Winston Churchill at the unveiling of the Westminster Abbey Memorial

Type: Files
Author: John Mewett
Year of Publishing: 2015
Keywords: Churchill Speech Westminster Abbey Memorial May 1948