An extensive restoration project has begun at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Runnymede Air Forces Memorial in Surrey.

The memorial commemorates 20,000 Commonwealth men and women who went missing in the skies over Northern Europe during the Second World War.

Work has started to restore iconic ceiling designs that feature the moon, stars and four winds, with experts painstakingly removing mould and decayed paint prior to returning the artworks to their original colour scheme.

The second stage of the project will see painted wooden panels featuring the coats of arms of Commonwealth countries restored to their former glory.

Nigel Stevens, technical surveyor at CWGC, said: “The Runnymede Air Forces Memorial is one of CWGC’s most visited sites in the UK. As with all CWGC memorials, the design pays tribute to the lives of the people remembered here, including the intricate paintings in the shrine and cloisters.

“The level of care and precision required to restore these paintings shows just how much attention to detail was paid when the memorial was first designed.”

Opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1953, the Runneymede memorial was designed by Sir Edward Maufe and features name panels arranged along a cloister and a shrine resembling the control tower of a Second World War airfield.

CWGC warns that, during the restoration work, some parts of the building may be inaccessible although it aims to reduce the impact on visitors as much as possible.