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Our War Memorials:I-The London Area


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Until the Crimean campaign a war memorial was a thing unknown in Western Europe, unless we describe as war memorials such structures as Blenheim Palace, which was a gift conferred by a grateful country upon a victorious commander. The Blenheim Palace tradition has survived to this day, in that one or two of our most popular memorials of the Great War take the form of an inhabitable building, but a building dedicated to an important public service rather than to the gratification of an individual, however important. Memorials of this kind will be noticed here and there in the present chapter; the greater part of it must necessarily be concerned with memorials serving no purpose other than the suitable commemoration by the survivors of those who fell.

With only one or two very special exceptions of importance, these memorials are collective; that is to say, that they are put up by one group of people to another group of people. It is in this that their newness lies. The idea of commemorating with a work of monumental art the death, even the death in battle, of hundreds of ordinary men, often united by no stronger bond than a common place of residence, would have been inconceivable before the birth of modern democracy. Addison, in his "Campaign," was one of the first to wax eloquent over the deeds of the private soldier:

How can I see the gay,
the brave, the young,
Fall in the cloud of war,
and lye unsung!

But even he is moved to far loftier language at the thought of the general who had not yet been brought down to the level of a superior civil servant, but

.. pleased th' Almighty's
orders to perform,
Rides in the whirlwind,
and directs the storm

To-day this position has been reversed, and the Nelson Column is one of the last monuments (other than effigies pure and simple) put up by those of our ancestors who were chiefly interested in the individual.

Even after the Great War, however, enough was left of the hero-worshipping spirit of yesterday to give us just a few really important memorials to great persons. In the Royal Hospital Chapel, Greenwich, is a stained glass window designed by Mr. C. E. Kempe in memory of the three admirals who fell in action, Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock, killed at Coronel, and Rear-Admirals Sir Robert Arbuthnot and the Hon. Horace Hood, killed in the Battle of Jutland. Such a memorial is in the good old heroic tradition, for though it is flanked on either side by windows in memory of the naval chaplains and the masters and old boys of the Royal Hospital School who died in the war, the smallness and distinction of the group of persons it commemorates give it a definitely personal character. Another memorial of this kind is that dedicated to Nurse Edith Cavell, which stands at the junction of St. Martin's Lane with Charing Cross Road, a little way north of the porch of S. Martin-in-the-Fields.

Designed by Sir George Frampton, R.A., this monument has incurred a great deal of criticism, part of which was directed against the strong Teutonic tendencies that single it out from among all other public monuments in London. A life-size portrait statue of Nurse Cavell in uniform, executed in white marble, is placed against a granite pylon terminating in a cross, the upper arm of which is formed by a seated female figure shielding an infant. On the four sides are carved the words Humanity, Sacrifice, Fortitude, Devotion.

All other personal memorials, however, are completely put in the shade by the Memorial Chapel in S. Paul's Cathedral dedicated to the memory of Earl Kitchener, the one outstanding personality of the war who was killed, not in a military action, but as the result of an enemy attack at sea which surrounded his demise with an air of mystery and horror unimaginable in other circumstances. The chapel, designed by Sir John Burnet and Partners, architects, and sculptured by Mr. W. Reid Dick, A.R.A., is known as the All Souls Chapel, and is situated in the northwest corner of the nave. The stone figure of Earl Kitchener in Field-Marshal's uniform lies on a low stone bier in the centre of the chapel, facing the altar.

But by common consent of the English people the most important individual killed in the Great War was not a leader so conspicuous even as Lord Kitchener; it was the Average Man, whose body is laid in the Unknown Warrior's grave in Westminster Abbey. The grave is in the centre of the nave, just inside the great west doors, between the second and third pair of columns. On a black marble slab is an inscription, inlaid in letters of brass, stating that:

"Beneath this stone rests the body OF A BRITISH WARRIOR unknown by name or rank, brought from France to lie among the most illustrious of the land and buried here on Armistice Day in November, 1920, in the presence of His majesty king george V, His ministers of state, the chiefs of His forces, and a vast concourse of the nation."

The Unknown Warrior's grave commemorates the Average of the men who died; the Cenotaph in Whitehall commemorates the Whole of those men. If the Cenotaph had been ugly or dull in its design it would still hold the first place in our affections, for it is a permanent copy of the monument saluted by detachments of the allied armies at the peace celebrations in 1919. But it is impossible that it should be dull or ugly, for the simple reason that if it had not at first given the deepest satisfaction to all who saw it, this monument would never have been duplicated in stone. Sir Edwin Lutyens' Cenotaph has come into being in the one manner above all others favourable to the productions of first-rate architecture.

In many of the best buildings in the world we constantly see features whose outline betrays the facl that they were originally designed in some temporary material. Their translation into stone is proof oi their popularity and often enough of their excellence also, just as a man who buys a book for himself after having read a borrowed copy shows in this act how great a value he sets upon the book. The Cenotaph was not put up as a model for a structure designed to remain with us. Models of this kind have been used elsewhere, and have helped considerably to produce a good design and to place this design in a good position. The Cenotaph was put up as a piece of temporary decoration, and at once took such a place in our affections that we decided we could not possibly part with it again. Most permanent architecture of the first order has its origin deep down in the affections of men who decided that it must not be allowed to go out of their lives.

It is easy to overrate the qualities of the Cenotaph as a work of art, great though these undoubtedly are; it is next to impossible to overrate its qualities as an utterance of communal feeling. A work of art to be really great must say a great deal; few people would claim that the Cenotaph says a great deal. Its brevity, however, is only less noticeable than its fitness. The little it says is so much to the point, so true for the greater majority of us, so pure in its feeling, so modest in its implications, that we have come to regard it as the emblem of those ideas and emotions that we all share with one another and for that very reason so seldom express. The principal part of the Cenotaph is, as its name tells us, an empty coffin of a size and shape suitable for the reception of a human body.

These two memorials, common to the nation, are a pair unique among all memorials, and their counterpart is not to be found outside London. Next in importance are the monuments put up by the great Army Divisions. It cannot be said that these are proper to the London area; the Royal Engineers, for example, have their obelisk at Chatham; but London certainly contains the majority of them.

The most ambitious, and also the most interesting, is undoubtedly the Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner, the joint work of Mr. Lionel Pearson, the architect, and Mr. C. S. Jagger, the sculptor. Its spirit is the exact opposite of the Cenotaph. It speaks in tones as loud as those of the Cenotaph are subdued, in a language as extravagant as that of the Cenotaph is simple and restricted. Its position, never a good one, became even more uncongenial when the island on which it stands was made the centre of London's most hazardous roundabout for wheeled traffic. It has no setting of any sort; but, then, it is not the kind of monument that would fall in with an ordinary urban setting.

On a pylon or pedestal developed in the form of a cross is reared a replica in stone of a 9'2 howitzer pointing southwards. Three life-size bronze figures stand against the masonry face on three sides of the giant pedestal: on the west a driver, on the east a gunner and on the south a first-lieutenant. At the north end the bronze figure is of a gunner lying dead upon a stone bearing an inscription that the roll of honour lies buried beneath it, and concluding with the words: "They will return nevermore But their glory will abide forever." At the foot of the pedestal runs the inscription "Here was a royal fellowship of death." On the east and west sides of the stone pylon are sculptures in low relief showing the regiment in action, and the dedication: "In proud remembrance of the forty-nine thousand and seventy-six of all ranks of the Royal Regiment of Artillery who gave their lives for King and Country in the Great War, 1914-1918."

Only a few yards away from the Artillery Memorial is that of the Machine Gun Corps. Surrounded on either side by machine guns crowned with laurels stands the heroic figure of David, modelled by the late F. Derwent Wood, R.A., with the right hand on his hip and holding Goliath's sword in the left. The attitude of this figure is full of grace and breathes a refined serenity. A brief history of the Machine Gun Corps, describing its origin and giving the number of killed and wounded, is carved on the back of the pedestal, while on one face -is the quotation, "Saul has -slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands," the aptest of its kind on any London memorial, and one without which the relevance of the David statue cannot of course be properly understood.

The next most ambitious army memorial is in strong contrast with these two in that it enjoys the finest position of any memorial in London. As one emerges from the arched passage through the Horse Guards from Whitehall the sight of the great tapering pylon of stone against the background of greenery is one that impresses itself deeply on the memory. Its effect is all the stronger because London is so remarkably poor in monument sites of this kind. And the monument itself, though it cannot possibly be compared with the Cenotaph and lacks the singular descriptive interest of the Artillery sculpture, is worthy of its great dignity of position. The architect was Mr. H. Chalton Bradshaw, the present secretary of the Royal Fine Arts Commission, and the sculptor Mr. Gilbert Ledward. It is one of the few monuments provided with a really satisfactory base, ample but by no means excessive, and finely buttressed at each of its four corners. The pylon of Portland stone has panels in relief showing field and machine guns in action; against the face of the pylon are five figures of uniformed men in bronze, emblems of the five great regiments in the Brigade of Guards, in various attitudes of marching, with their respective badges carved on the stone base below.

On the pylon itself are carved the names of battles in which the Guards took part. The arrangement of these names on the great expanse of stone has been contrived with great skill, but what is even more distinguishing is the fact of their being there at all. There is surely no other pylon, obelisk, column or other abstract monumental structure in London the whole surface of which has been utilised as it is here.

Mr. Bradshaw has proved that good lettering can be a decoration in itself, and that good decoration may be carried to greater length than people usually think safe.

Next to the Guards Memorial must be placed the Royal Air Force Memorial on the Victoria Embankment. Designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, R.A., the architect of some of the most important of our battlefield memorials, it rises in the form of a stone obelisk surmounted by a gilt globe from which an eagle seems to be taking flight across the Thames. The sculptor was Mr. W Reid Dick, A.R.A.

Three other memorials stand in close proximity to the Air Force obelisk. The first, known as the "Belgian" memorial, is the work of the same architect, with sculpture by the Belgian artist Victor Rousseau. The memorial is dedicated "To the British Nation from the Grateful People of Belgium 1914-1918"; few dedicatory inscriptions are as brief and to the point. The central bronze figure is a mournful one clad in flowing draperies and accompanied by a naked youth and child. Justice and Honour are represented on either side. This memorial stands opposite Cleopatra's Needle; the other, the Submarine Memorial, some distance farther east. It takes the form of a tablet let into the Embankment wall. Lastly, in the Victoria Embankment Gardens is the memorial of the Imperial Camel Corps, the work of Major Cecil Brown. It represents a mounted private.

The Cavalry Memorial, just inside the Hyde Park railings opposite the junction of Stanhope Street with Park Lane, is the last of the series of outstanding military memorials conceived in the grand manner. Its sculptor was Mr. Adrian Jones, author of the famous quadriga of horses on the top of Constitution Arch. On a stone screen which stands with its back to the Park Lane pavement are the names of the cavalry regiments of all parts of the Empire; between these columns of names are those of the great leaders, French, Haig, Allenby and Robertson, each surmounted by a Field-Marshal's staff. The screen contains pairs of Doric columns in Portland stone which relate the whole memorial most adequately to the adjoining gate-lodges. In front of the screen is an equestrian statue of S. George with his sword raised up and the dead dragon coiled beneath his horse.

Among the less important memorials there is none to rival that of the Royal Naval Division. It is doubtful whether a more delightful form of memorial exists than that of a fountain. Perhaps the reason for there being only one such in the whole of the London area is to be found in London's atmosphere, which is not often able to make a jet of water the grateful sight it ought to be. Nor can it be said that this one fountain, erected to the members of the Royal Naval Division, has been placed in the most favourable surroundings available. The bleak and windy corner of the Admiralty Buildings where it abuts on Horse Guards Parade is hardly the best spot that could have been chosen. The design of the fountain itself, which is by Sir Edwin Lutyens, R.A., is, however, pleasing enough, though it suffers from the lack of an adequate base, and gives the appearance of being balanced on the edge of the parapet surrounding the Admiralty block.

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Pictures for Our War Memorials:I-The London Area

And they were wardens of the bridges. When
THE WHITEHALL CENOTAPH. LONDON'S GREATEST MEMORIAL TO THE GLORIOUS DEAD
And they were wardens of the bridges. When THE WHITEHALL CENOTAPH. LONDON'S GREATEST MEMORIAL TO THE GLORIOUS DEAD >>>>
KITCHENER STATUE, HORSE GUARDS PARADE
KITCHENER STATUE, HORSE GUARDS PARADE >>>>
CHAPEL AND MONUMENT IN S. PAUL'S IN MEMORY OF BRITAIN'S GREAT MILITARY LEADER
CHAPEL AND MONUMENT IN S. PAUL'S IN MEMORY OF BRITAIN'S GREAT MILITARY LEADER >>>>
THE ROYAL EXCHANGE MEMORIAL TO ALL LONDON TROOPS
THE ROYAL EXCHANGE MEMORIAL TO ALL LONDON TROOPS >>>>
THE STORY OF THE GUARDS, TOLD IN BRONZE AND PORTLAND STONE
THE STORY OF THE GUARDS, TOLD IN BRONZE AND PORTLAND STONE >>>>
THE ARTILLERY MEMORIAL, SET IN THE WHIRL OF A BUSY TRAFFIC CENTRE
THE ARTILLERY MEMORIAL, SET IN THE WHIRL OF A BUSY TRAFFIC CENTRE >>>>
THE MEMORIAL TO NURSE EDITH CAVELL
THE MEMORIAL TO NURSE EDITH CAVELL >>>>
TO THE BRITISH NATION FROM A GRATEFUL BELGIUM
TO THE BRITISH NATION FROM A GRATEFUL BELGIUM >>>>
Ad Astra: Royal Air Force Memorial, Victoria Embankment
Ad Astra: Royal Air Force Memorial, Victoria Embankment >>>>
THE EMBLEM OF S. GEORGE: CAVALRY MEMORIAL IN HYDE PARK
THE EMBLEM OF S. GEORGE: CAVALRY MEMORIAL IN HYDE PARK >>>>
SUBMARINE MEMORIAL TABLET, AND THE FOUNTAIN OF THE ROYAL NAVAL DIVISION
SUBMARINE MEMORIAL TABLET, AND THE FOUNTAIN OF THE ROYAL NAVAL DIVISION >>>>
TO THE MEN OF THE L.M.S. AT EUSTON
TO THE MEN OF THE L.M.S. AT EUSTON >>>>
TO THE MEN OF THE CAMEL CORPS, AND THE MACHINE GUNNERS' MEMORIAL AT HYDE PARK CORNER
TO THE MEN OF THE CAMEL CORPS, AND THE MACHINE GUNNERS' MEMORIAL AT HYDE PARK CORNER >>>>
THE RIFLE BRIGADE MEMORIAL, GROSVENOR GARDENS
THE RIFLE BRIGADE MEMORIAL, GROSVENOR GARDENS >>>>
MEMORIAL TO THE TWENTY-FOURTH DIVISION: AN ARTISTIC MONUMENT IN BATTERSEA PARK
MEMORIAL TO THE TWENTY-FOURTH DIVISION: AN ARTISTIC MONUMENT IN BATTERSEA PARK >>>>
COMMEMORATING THE HEROES OF LINCOLN'S INN
COMMEMORATING THE HEROES OF LINCOLN'S INN >>>>
STOCKWELL'S CLOCK TOWER, AND
STOCKWELL'S CLOCK TOWER, AND "THE QUEEN'S" MEMORIAL IN KENNINGTON PARK >>>>
THE MEMORIAL BY JACK STRAW'S CASTLE, HAMPSTEAD HEATH
THE MEMORIAL BY JACK STRAW'S CASTLE, HAMPSTEAD HEATH >>>>
MILL HILL'S GATE OF HONOUR
MILL HILL'S GATE OF HONOUR >>>>
WIMBLEDON'S FINE MEMORIAL ON THE COMMON'S EDGE
WIMBLEDON'S FINE MEMORIAL ON THE COMMON'S EDGE >>>>
TOMB OF THE NAMELESS WARRIOR OF BRITISH RACE
TOMB OF THE NAMELESS WARRIOR OF BRITISH RACE >>>>

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