It was erected by the officers and men of the Royal Marines in memory of their comrades who were killed in action or died of wounds or disease in South Africa and China 1899 -1900. Each member of the Guard of Honour, drawn from the Royal Marines Light Infantry (RMLI) and the Royal Marines Association (RMA), commanded by Major A E Marchant CB RMLI, had served in one of the campaigns.
Two bronze figures of Royal Marines, sculptured by Captain Adrian Jones, (a retired Army Veterinary Corps officer), stand upon a Portland stone base depicting one defending his fallen comrade. The base is decorated with bronze plaques in high relief, by Sir Thomas Graham Jackson, which depict the battles and Roll of Honour of the two campaigns.
In 1940, along with the Royal Naval Division Memorial Fountain, it was removed to make way for the building of The Citadel and placed in storage at Battersea. In 1948 it was re-erected in its present position.
In April 1984 a small group of former Royal Marines, approximately half a dozen, of the then fledgling RMA City of London Branch (RMA CoL) laid a wreath at the Graspan Memorial on the Mall. Hardly anyone took any notice as these ‘few’ paid their respects to the fallen of far off and long forgotten campaigns. Indeed the ceremony had to be short as well as modest due to the Burma Star Association parade, which was taking place at Horse Guards. This parade in turn attracted a large number of on-lookers, many of whom were ‘milling about’ as our associates paid their respects.
Sixteen years later on 29th October 2000 it was a different story. This time the road was closed to traffic, as over four hundred former Royal Marines, their Officers and Association Standards; members of the regular and reserve forces of the Corps and their Generals marched onto the Mall. Led by the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth the Parade was brought to a halt adjacent to the Graspan Memorial to hold what had now become an official annual service of remembrance.
After substantial renovation this memorial, in the presence of HRH The Prince Philip, Captain General Royal Marines, was rededicated as the Royal Marines National Memorial. The ceremony was one of dignity and pride and, although in scale much larger and grander than the modest efforts of those early days, still fostered the same principle, that ‘we shall remember them’.
Indeed if an example of ‘acorns growing into oak trees’ were needed, then this is a fine example. Due to the efforts of the National Memorial Appeal Committee and the RMA CoL Branch, this famous Corps Memorial now has a venue at which it can honour the men, not just those of the campaigns depicted, but all Royal Marines who have fallen whilst in service of their country; long may this continue. This Parade was arranged by City of London Branch until 2013. It is now organised by The Royal Marines Association.