In 1921 the sum of £2,130 was raised by public subscription to create a “Memorial tablet to the Officers and Men of the Submarine Service R.N.” on the Embankment. It was dedicated in June 1922 and remains a very important place in the hearts and minds of all submariners. Yet the Embankment is not the most peaceful nor easiest place to meet for collective or private acts of remembrance or for quiet reflection. Also the Embankment Memorial recognises submarines lost in the two world wars but not the submariners lost since then.

In the 21 years since its opening, the National Memorial Arboretum has grown into the centre of national remembrance, and all armed and public services and many of their units and branches have placed memorials on this site.  Indeed the Submariners Association placed a small plaque here to submarines lost in the wars and another to our VC winners when the Arboretum opened. 

In recent years, however, there has been a growing call for a more fitting memorial for all 5960 submariners who have given their lives in service and, for the first time, to have a memorial which recognises the sacrifice of their families.   This was recognised in July 2019 when a group of retired submariners came together to form a charity – The Submariner Memorial Appeal.

The aim was not only to raise funds, plan and install a new memorial, but in the process to bring the disparate elements of the submarine community together.  The appeal was launched by the then Second Sea Lord in front of HMS ANSON in Devonshire Dock Hall at BAES Barrow-in-Furness on 28 February 2020 and a public competition to find ideas to inspire a professional designer announced. 

From over 600 entries, three age category winners and one overall winner were chosen and these given to three carefully selected professional sculptors.  They were given wide latitude to be inspired by the winning entries but not to have to reproduce them.  The resulting designs were all very different but all impressive but Paul Day’s entry immediately engaged the Board’s emotions and caught the spirit of the submarine service.  

Whilst Paul progressed the detailed design and casting of the memorial, fundraising ramped up. Around £500,000 would be needed.  The appeal was very lucky to receive two particularly significant donations, £125,000 from the Gosling Foundation and £100,000 from Mr Chris Lewis. Submarine Industries were also very generous with 21 separate companies contributing.  Livery companies, the Freemasons, the Royal Navy Royal Marines Charity, the RN Association and our submarine charities all supported the appeal and many individual contributions were made through crowd funding and a wealth of individual fundraising activities.  These included running, rowing, cycling, painting, drawing, printing, coining (selling commemorative coins), writing, merchandising and more. The standout individual effort was Mr Graham Bishop who completed the London Marathon wearing a submarine costume

The money was raised in time for the turf to be cut by Diana Mayes, 100 year old widow of Lt Gordon Noll, CO of HMS UNTAMED and a young submariner from HMS VIGILANT on 6 September 2021.

The memorial itself is 3500kg of bronze sculpted into a divided fin of a submarine with the lone figure of a submariner standing between the two halves looking to the surface. On one outer side of the fin is a frieze of families waiting the return of their loved ones and on the other fin the Churchill quote:

“Of all the branches of men in the forces there is none which shows more devotion and faces grimmer perils than the submariners.”

The memorial is on long low mound to give the idea of the rest of the boat just below the water. An interpretation board is sited by its ‘starboard bow’. On this is a QR code which links to this new Online Book of Remembrance gifted to the Submarine Family by the Friends of the RN Submarine Museum.

This is a very significant piece of work in it is own right, it features the most detailed and well researched list of those who gave their lives in service in submarines. It will allow people to add stories and photographs of those whom they have lost and the QR code will be shared with all other submarine memorials (over 60) around the country. Funds have been set aside to add it to the Embankment Memorial too.