Gilbert-Ash was appointed as main contractor to build architect Liam O’Connor’s emotive memorial to 55,573 members of Bomber Command who lost their lives during World War II. This national monument was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the 28th June 2012.
This was a really interesting project to work on, and certainly a one-off. The project was late getting off the ground and so the team had to accelerate the programme to finish on schedule. As the Queen was due to unveil the memorial, there was no way we could afford not to finish on time!
The late start meant that we had to use additional cranes and enclosing scaffold over the length of the memorial to allow working in inclement weather. We also needed to provide heating if the temperature fell below 5oC to prevent damage to the lime mortar bedding.
The memorial is built on piled foundations which commenced following the diversion of a 450m gas main in Piccadilly. Once the foundations were complete, the stonemasons began work on the Portland stone ‘wings’ and central ‘masses’ where the roof is positioned over the loggia. The carving of the emblems and lettering was all done by hand to dramatic effect. Some of the stonework is very intricate and the tolerances were very tight. The roof of the memorial is formed of a stainless steel diagrid representing the ‘skeleton’ of the fuselage of a Lancaster bomber. The lining sheet is made from aluminium recovered from a crashed bomber which was smelted and rolled into sheets.
The stunning bronze sculpture by Philip Jackson, of the seven airmen who formed the crew of a Lancaster bomber is situated under the barrel vaulted roof with an opening to the sky.