Women of World War II Memorial
Whitehall, London, United Kingdom
Women of World War II Memorial London Reviews
Women of World War II Memorial Feb 10, 2017
This is a relatively recent and perhaps overdue addition to the many memorials of London.
This memorial/cenotaph to the Women of World War II was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II on 9 July, 2005 some 60 years after the end of World War II. The memorial, dedicated by Baroness Boothroyd, former Speaker of the House of Commons, commemorates the contribution of some 7 million women to the war effort, both in uniform and on the home front. Perhaps not well known, conscription for women began in 1941 and by 1943 nine out of 10 single women aged between 20 and 30 were working in factories, on the land or in the armed forces.
The memorial is very centrally placed just down from the Cenotaph on Whitehall and just outside Downing Street - on the former site of a statue of Sir Francis Drake which was removed and relocated to Greenwich.
The 22 feet high, bronze memorial was created by British sculptor, John W. Mills who incidentally also created the National Firefighters Memorial close to St Paul’s Cathedral.
The display of 17 uniforms or working clothes worn by women during the war reminds us of the hundreds of different jobs women undertook during World War II. Among the clothing displayed are uniforms as worn by the Women's Land Army, Women's Royal Naval Service, canteen ladies overalls, a nursing cape, a police overall and a welding mask.
Mills was was inspired after seeing a 1940s photograph of a cloakroom at a dance hall which he translated into the concept of women hanging up their uniforms and going back to their normal lives after the end of the war. Personally, I like the dignified anonymity of the discarded uniforms after the heroic endeavours of those who wore them.
Detractors (that seem to object to everything nowadays) have intimated that the memorial is more symbolic of a clothes rack where women hung up their clothes at the end of the war – returning them to the men that had done these jobs before the war – and returned to the kitchen sink. Others have criticised it for its absence of a actual women but, then again, there are neither women nor men portrayed on the main cenotaph a little further down the road towards Westminster.
The memorial was made possible due to the efforts of a fund-raising trust headed up by Baroness Boothroyd, Dame Vera Lynn and the Princess Royal (Princess Anne). A significant part of the memorial’s cost was paid from Baroness Boothroyd’s winnings on “Who wants to be a millionaire” – a television quiz show.
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