After the First World War, an appropriate way had to be found of commemorating those members of the Royal Navy who had died with no known grave. An Admiralty committee recommended that the three naval ports in Great Britain – Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth – should each have an identical memorial of a naval form, which would serve as a landmark for shipping. The memorials were designed by Sir Robert Lorimer, with additional sculpture by Henry Poole.
Following the Second World War, it was decided that the three naval memorials should be extended to provide space for commemorating the naval dead of that war. However despite the original intention, all three sites were in fact built slightly differently to each other, and hence different architectural treatments were needed. The architect for the Second World War extension at Portsmouth was Sir Edward Maufe (who also designed the Air Forces memorial at Runnymede) and the additional sculpture was by Charles Wheeler, William McMillan, and Esmond Burton.
The Portsmouth Naval Memorial commemorates 9,667 sailors of the First World War and 14,918 of the Second World War.