War memorials

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Why do war memorials look the way they do?

The War Memorials Trust estimates that there are 100,000 war memorials in the UK, and many of them follow a similar range of designs. There’s the statue of an infantryman, as in the memorial in Otley. There’s the Cenotaph style memorials that mimic the original design created for London by Edwin Lutyens in 1919. Some places, such as Victoria Park in Leicester, have an archway reminiscent of the Menin Gate in Ypres. Many smaller towns and villages have a memorial in the form of a simple cross.

The First World War defined remembrance for the 20th century. Wars had been commemorated before, but the sheer scale of the conflict and its impact on towns and villages across the country sparked a response to anniversaries beyond anything seen before. The BBC has a great summary of how the response to conflict ‘set the blueprint’ for commemoration. Now, at nearly a century’s remove from the events of 1914-18, it seems appropriate to reflect on how the formal commemoration events that began in 1919 have influenced who and what we remember in our commemoration events today, and how they are enacted. Who is remembered, and who is not? More importantly, why? We’ll return to this topic in future posts.

As part of our project we’re researching seven names from the war memorial in Otley, West Yorkshire. All were soldiers with the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment and all had different experiences of the war. We’re using a range of sources including medal indexes, service records, battalion war diaries, death and burial records and personal memoirs of soldiers who served with those battalions to build up a picture of their war service and how they died. We’ll report back as our research unfolds.

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, aka the Tower Poppies

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Image: the poppies, and the crowds, at the Tower of London, 7 November 2014.

The art installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’, by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, is to date the UK’s most viewed and probably most controversial commemorative act of the First World War centenary (though it could yet be surpassed: there are still nearly four more years to go!). The work consisted of 888,246 ceramic poppies, each representing one British or Colonial serviceman killed in the war, which were installed progressively in the Tower of London moat between July and November 2014. The installation has been well documented in the press. The debate over whether it is in appropriate way of commemorating and memorialising the First World War offers and insight into contemporary attitudes towards the conflict and much food for debate. We focused on two contrasting articles:

It’s hardly surprising that the Mail and the Guardian should differ in their views (and it amused me that Hardman should claim the First World War as a chapter in the country’s history that ‘transcend(s) the petty squabbles of Left and Right’ while at the same time using his article to take pot shots at ‘Lefties’). The debate begs a number of questions. Is it ever possible for commemoration to transcend politics? Who does this installation represent, and who (by definition) does it exclude? Does it matter? And what alternative ways can we find of remembering and commemorating the First World War?

 

The Curator @ War: “Bah Humbug – stripping the Armouries decorations for Christmas” December 1914

Keeper of the Tower Armouries, Bridget Clifford, continues her posts on Charles John Ffoulkes, who was Curator of the Armouries from 1913-1938 – during which he took part in the World War I civil defence of London, completed the first and last complete modern printed catalogue of the Tower collection, and created a museum infrastructure within The Tower. After his retirement, he was awarded an OBE in 1925 and a CBE in 1934 in recognition of his work on the Imperial War Museum.

In 1914, as the rest of the country prepared for the festive period and the realisation began to dawn that the war would not be over by Christmas, ffoulkes continued on his mission to modernise the White Tower displays, following on from the work started by Dillon. Having judiciously pruned some of the more exotic elements of the collection in November, despatching Oriental, Classical and Prehistoric material to the British Museum, and with the prospect of the small arms stores being removed from the Entrance floor of the White Tower, he began to clear the decks – literally.

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The photographs below give an impression of the ebullient displays from the later 1880s after the demolition of the New Horse Armoury. They come from The Photographic View Album of the Tower of London published by Valentine and Sons of Dundee but sadly undated.  This specific copy was annotated by ffoulkes and presented to HMS Tower 27th April 1917. Built by Swan Hunter and launched 5th April 1917, HMS Tower was an R class destroyer and is probably most famous for having the first modern ship’s badge, co-designed by Mr George Richardson, director of the shipyard, and Major Charles ffoulkes. The badge consisted of the White Tower and motto “God Save King George and his Tower” within a rope border, topped with a naval crown and with the ship’s name beneath.

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This is the Council Chamber (today more prosaically titled second floor west gallery) before the removal of the sword railings (1913) and the filling in of the light wells in the floor. Perhaps the lights installed in 1884 were somewhat unsubtle – in his autobiography ffoulkes described them as “great arc lights like a modern railway station” (p.64) – and obviously space was at a premium as the exhibits crowded together in their new home.

At the Northern end Queen Elizabeth I and her page found temporary refuge before moving back to the crypt and thence to pastures new. Both look resigned to their lot – perhaps recognising worse was yet to come after their move to the Museum of London. Today the only survivor of this tableau is Queen Elizabeth’s head.  The rest were consigned to a museum store room in the 1930s where they remain immured (if not shattered) by enemy action during the Second World War.

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However it was the Banqueting Hall (today’s first floor) that ffoulkes was targeting in December 1914. Finally he could be rid of the “elaborate trophies ….. and geometrical patterns of composed of tortured swords, bayonets and gun-locks bent and twisted in the Ordnance forges to conform with the lines of required designs. These were produced by Mr Stacy, Armoury Keeper, as a feeble imitation of the wonders produced by one Harris in the Storehouse which was burnt in 1841”. A little harsh on Mr Stacy, but ffoulkes had very determined views on the subject regarding “these typical products of nineteenth-century military art”  as “symptomatic of a period which could not produce simple railings without designing them as cast-iron spears with iron tassels”.

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So the scrolling motifs of re-formed gun-locks around the light wells, pendant bayonets and other trophies of arms attached to the ceilings were removed, and the great flower heads (a little something for the lady visitor?) seen here flanking the opening in the North face of the White Tower were swept away.  A few decorations lingered on in more inaccessible places, but ffoulkes had placed his finger on the continuing dilemma of how best to display the interior of the White Tower? As he put it “Firstly it is a magnificent specimen of eleventh-century architecture, and secondly it houses a collection of arms and armour, many pieces having been exhibited here since the sixteenth century, if not earlier.”   Finding a satisfactory balance continues to exercise the minds of curators and architectural historians to this day, as these two aspects can at times be mutually exclusive.

(A footnote for the pedants among us – this view is of the first floor east leading to the Chapel of St John, while traditionally the Banqueting Hall refers to the west side of the floor. Even ffoulkes had to think twice – but it is clear from the new Guide Book produced in 1916 when the whole of the White Tower was given over to Armouries displays that the Sword floor was on the east side , with the Weapons room on the west. Happy Christmas!)

The Curator @ War: “The enemy within” November 1914

Author: Bridget Clifford, Keeper of Tower Armouries.

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Three months into the war, as the combatants on the Western Front learnt the grim reality of trench warfare in the 1st battle of Ypres, the Tower found itself once more a place of execution.

Three hundred years after Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex and former favourite of Queen Elizabeth I became the last man beheaded on site (25th February 1601), Carl Hans Lody faced an eight man firing squad at the Tower having been found guilty of war treason against Great Britain.

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Born and educated in Germany, Lody completed a year’s service in the German Navy from 1900-1901 then joined the merchant fleet while remaining a naval Reservist. Working on English, Norwegian and American ships he travelled extensively, latterly as a tourist agent running excursions for the Hamburg – Amerika line.  In 1912 he met and married a wealthy American lady of German descent and they planned to make their home in the States. Unfortunately the marriage was short-lived and in July 1914 Lody found himself aged 39, unattached and $10,000 dollars richer thanks to his former father in law and determined to emigrate. He contacted the general office of the Naval Office seeking release from the Reserve, citing an illness in 1904 which had rendered him unfit for active service.

Summoned for interviews in August it was suggested that he might undertake some naval intelligence gathering in England before relocating to America.  Despite his reservations as to his suitability for the role, the 27 August saw him disembarking at Newcastle as Charles Inglis an American tourist. Moving to Edinburgh he sent his first telegram to Adolf Burchard in Stockholm on 30th August.

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Lody was unaware that the address was known to the British authorities who were already conducting stringent and very successful postal censorship, and who would monitor his future correspondence. Cycling round Edinburgh he relayed observations, gossip and newspaper cuttings in further letters to Burchard. Trips to London, Liverpool and Killarney in Ireland followed and the increasing quality of information aroused sufficient alarm for the Royal Irish Constabulary to be alerted. Charles Inglis was detained on 2nd October under the Defence of the Realm Act as a suspected German agent. Instituted 8th August 1914, the Defence of the Realm Act made espionage a military offence to be tried by Court Martial punishable with death penalty.

Brought to London and held at Wellington Barracks, Lody’s court Martial was conducted at the Middlesex Guildhall, Westminster Broadway from Friday 30th October to Monday 2nd November.  The proceedings were open to the public but the court was cleared for sentencing. On the 4th November secret written instructions were issued to the general officer commanding London district, stating that His Majesty confirmed the findings of the court, and that Lody should be told of his fate the following morning.  At least 18 hours must elapse before sentence was carried out, with every consideration afforded the prisoner for religious consolation and an interview with his legal adviser. However there was to be no leakage to the press before the official communique was issued. The Tower was the approved place of execution given the constraints of time and secrecy, and on the evening of 5th November a police van brought Lody to the site.

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He wrote two letters on the eve of his death – one to the commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards at Wellington Barracks thanking him and his staff for their kind and considered treatment “even towards the enemy” and signing himself Senior Lieutenant, Imperial German Res. II; the second was to relations in Stuttgart stating “I shall die as an Officer, not as a spy”.

Ten further spies were executed at the Tower, the last Ludvico Hurwitz-y-Zender on 11th April 1916. The majority including Lody died in the Rifle Range in the outer ward of the Tower between the Constable and Martin Towers – an area closed to the public. As ffoulkes wrote in Arms and the Tower (1939 ) “it is worthy of note that although London was filled with hysterical rumours of spies, secret signalling and expected sabotage, the authorities kept their heads as far as the Tower was concerned.  All through the War the Tower was open to the public at 6d. a head, or on certain days free, in spite of the fact that spies were imprisoned and shot within the precincts.”

Ernest Ibbetson’s engraving of the Tower site in 1916 with the buildings open to the public is highlighted below.  From North to South – Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula (not Saturday afternoons); White Tower (1st and 2nd floors only); Wakefield Tower (Crown Jewels); Beauchamp Tower (prisoner’s inscriptions).

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They That Are Left: the Royal Armouries hosts a stunning Remembrance photographic exhibition

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…They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them…”

from Laurence Binyon’s ‘The Fallen’ (first published in The Times, 21 September 1914)

Last week the Royal Armouries hosted the opening of photographer Brian David Stevens’ ‘They That Are Left’ exhibition, an inspiring ten-year project comprising of portrait photographs of war veterans, taken each Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph from 2002 to 2012. The project consists of 100 portraits, a selection of which is currently on display at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds until 1 February, as part of our First World War Centenary commemorations.

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As with each passing year our war veterans do grow older, and age both wearies them and condemns their valuable memories, they are thus at risk of becoming unknown. With this in mind, Brian took inspiration from Binyon’s famous poem, saying “the viewer is given no information, just a portrait. These faces then are as of unknown soldiers; no cap badges, no ribbons of spooling medals, no insignia for military rank. They are faces only. Each deep-etched with who they are and what they did, that we might look, and think – and thank them.”

“As the years pass, the number of veterans from World War I has dwindled to nothing and the number from World War II is steadily reduced, but their places are taken by other veterans from newer conflicts, who are also included.”

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Below is a short interview with Brian at the Royal Armouries about his collection, currently showing until 1 February.

The exhibition – which forms part of Royal Armouries’ ‘Inspired by…’ programme – transfers in March to Fort Nelson, Portsmouth, home to the national collection of artillery. For more information about Brian David Stevens’ work, please see his website here; http://briandavidstevens.com/ .

 

The Curator Goes to War – British toys for British boys

@Royal Armouries

@Royal Armouries

The Minute Book entries for October 1914 are the usual mix of domestic detail, grand strategy and a pinch of world events.

The move of material (Royal armours)to the White Tower sub-crypt was a precaution against the anticipated Zeppelin air attacks, although they did not finally materialise in London until 8th August 1915. It was no coincidence that on the same day ffoulkes was presented with a practical war-time role. Although apparently resigning himself to “continue the work for which I had been appointed and await developments” at the outbreak of war, the Senior service finally provided an opportunity for this “entirely untrained civilian … [aged] … forty-six”. The use of RNVR personnel to man London’s air defences was the First Lord of the Admiralty’s (one Winston Churchill) response to an urgent appeal from the Lord Mayor of London as the trained gunners were needed in France. Mr C mobilized an Anti-Aircraft corps in the RNVR with searchlights being manned by the electrical staff of the Office of Works and the guns by men, many of whom had joined the special constabulary detailed for duty at the Royal Palaces. ffoulkes “took my place in the long queue and was enrolled as an able seaman, being promoted with startling rapidity to Chief Petty Officer and sub –Lieutenant” (Arms and the Tower p.75) – re-enforcing the impression that Charles was not one to hide his light under the proverbial bushel. His enthusiasm was catching. Lord Dillon, apparently a keen yachtsman in his youth also tried to enlist but at 70 years old his offer was rejected albeit with compliments on his patriotism.

Meanwhile, the home front was also under direct attack as staff laboured to keep woodworm at bay in the White Tower. There are several references to the block being treated during this period, and the wooden display horses were not immune. The core of the Armouries stable was provided by those animals nobly supporting the figures for the last 200 years. Unfortunately, although time had given them a greater status than mere props, identifying the fate (and date) of individual steeds continues to be problematical today. The deal horse ordered to be cut up on 21st October is probably the one seen prancing here on the top floor of the White Tower sometime between 1884 and 1913.

@ Royal Armouries

@ Royal Armouries

Contemporary newspaper reports suggest that it was this figure – or rather ffoulkes wooden model of it lent by Viscount Dillon – that helped the Women’s Emergency Corps toy making department’s push to produce British toys for the home market as Christmas 1914 approached. A wooden “Henry VIII in silvery armour tilting with a scarlet lance” based on ffoulkes’ model was intended to be the first of a series of soldiers “Ancient and Modern” according to the Sheffield Telegraph of 29th October 1914. Ffoulkes remained uncharacteristically quiet about his involvement in this particular enterprise. ( Many thanks to Naomi Paxton for bringing this snippet to my attention).

Meanwhile ffoulkes’ rationalisation of the Armouries collection by disposing of those parts he did not consider core gathered momentum. The loan of Oriental arms and armour, Prehistoric and Greek and Roman material to the British Museum proposed before the War moved closer with news of their Trustees’ agreement. By the end of October a new firearms case had arrived and existing cases were being French polished and their locks altered ready for the redisplays to follow the transfer.

Blogger: Bridget Clifford, Keeper of Tower Armouries

The Curator Goes to War – Autumn leaves

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September 1914 brought with it the reality of war as ffoulkes matter of factly recorded the departure of the first of his staff to serve King and Country.

Foreman William Henry Noble Buckingham joined the Tower as a Carpenter, and the first Armouries record we have of him is a signed piece of glass paper retrieved from inside XVII.12 (one of the wooden horses made for the Line of Kings at the Tower)  which reads “Repaired August 1893 By W Buckingham Carpenter”.  As Armouries Foreman he was responsible for the oversight of the 11 Armouries staff and the maintenance of the displays in the White Tower which ffoulkes was gradually modernising. A keen volunteer artilleryman, he had served in 1900 with the City Imperial Volunteers in the South African War (1899 -1902).  He re-enlisted in 1914 with the rank of Battery Sergeant-Major, Field Artillery and was sent to Peterborough with the Reserve Battery of the 1st Essex Battery. He fell ill in March 1915 and was given 3 weeks leave, dying on “the very hour” he should have returned to duty.

And cleaner W. Williams? He marched off to war, and apparent oblivion.  The Armouries records make no further mention of him or his fate.

Ten days later the 2nd Battalion the Scots Guards marched out of the Tower led by Col Bolton and a military band.

Ffoulkes watches the Guards leave for camp at Lyndhurst in the New Forest – he’s the bare headed gent standing on the Water Lane pavement to the left of the picture, 5th chap up with prominent white collar. Photographer Sgt Christopher Pilkington.

Ffoulkes watches the Guards leave for camp at Lyndhurst in the New Forest – he’s the bare headed gent standing on the Water Lane pavement to the left of the picture, 5th chap up with prominent white collar. Photographer Sgt Christopher Pilkington.

Staff Sergeant Christopher Pilkington was attached to the 2nd Battalion the Scots Guards and more of his unique record of their early war experience can be seen on the Imperial War Museum’s website. Ffoulkes was not averse to keeping a photographic record of his exploits, and a copy of this photograph was pasted into his album following on from earlier ones showing his return of local militia colours.

At the end of the month, Lionel Earle’s visit conferred both the official seal of approval on ffoulkes labours to modernise the displays and a timely reminder that life must go on even in the face of war.

Blogger: Bridget Clifford, Keeper of Tower Armouries

For details of the Royal Armouries’ First World War Centenary programme visit the website.