To protect and promote the spirit and substance of the work of Sir Edwin Lutyens OM
Location: Whitehall, London, SW1A 2AH
The Government planned a Peace Procession for 19 July 1919 to mark the signing of the Armistice that brought a formal end to the Great War, and which was due to pass along Whitehall to Buckingham Palace. David Lloyd-George (the Prime Minister) met Lutyens and asked him to design a catafalque to act as a saluting point: the architect famously replying that what was needed was not a “catafalque” but a “cenotaph” (a Greek word meaning “empty tomb”). The design was formally approved on 7 July, leaving less than a fortnight for it to be built out of wood and plaster, on the basis that it would be removed after the Procession. However, its stark and, on the face of it, simple, design struck an immediate chord with the general public and by the end of the Procession it was surrounded by piles of flowers and wreaths. A leader in The Times of 26 July called for the memorial to be made permanent and this was confirmed at a Cabinet four days later.
Lutyens refined the design for the final, stone, version, using the principle of entasis,under which horizontal lines are slightly curved to correct optical distortion and it was unveiled by HRH King George V on 11 November 1920 .
In 1938 Lutyens designed bronze barriers that are erected at either end of the memorial in November to protect the wreaths.