The Aguila Wren memorial

Monday 9 July 2018

The Essex Woodcarvers were approached buy the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, to produce a 915mm (3ft) high carving of a wren as a memorial to 21 members of the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) and one nursing sister, who were lost when the SS Aguila was torpedoed in 1941. The team of five carvers worked on the basis that materials and expenses were covered by the arboretum, but the time spent on the project was their own personal contribution.


As the carving was to stand outside, Brazilian cedar (Cedrela fissilis) was chosen in 38mm boards laminated together, screwed and glued with waterproof PVA glue. The four centreboards formed a cross running from the beak to the opposite side of the base in one direction, and from the tip of the tail to the base in the other direction. This was to give the maximum strength to the narrow area around the legs.

Once the bulk of the shape was achieved, the carving could start. The team meets only one day a week so progress was steady, but slow. As with the other projects they have undertaken, they managed to carve on different areas at the same time without anyone stabbing anyone else with a gouge!

Overall they spent 8-10 months completing the bird, which is equivalent to about 30 days work.

To provide a durable finish, a two-part finish from Sadolin was used, which gives a rich colour, given that it has a UV filter included.

The unveiling took place on 15 May 2010, and the reaction of all the members of the WRNS present made the whole exercise worthwhile. The rewards for projects like this are something that money can't buy.