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War memorials and commemoration
War memorials and commemoration

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8 Conclusion

I hope that you will agree that we have moved a long way from my original request to you to look at your local war memorial. You may have been stimulated to seek out other war memorials, and at the very least I hope that you will not pass one without noting its shape, location and form.

Even if you go no further with the subject, we have, I hope, seen how something whose existence, location and meaning we may well have taken for granted can yield interesting discussion. In thinking and inquiring about why it is as it is, we find ourselves analysing our own particular reactions to it, and seeking explanations for its form and its meaning.

To bring this course to a conclusion, we would like you to do two things. First of all, we suggest below two exercises to round off your work on the theme of war memorials, using three types of memorial. In suggesting these exercises, we particularly want you to use the expressions we have highlighted in bold in the preceeding pages: concept, meaning, perception, symbol and culture. Look back to these now if you need to remind yourself.

Secondly, we would like you, when you have completed these exercises, to reflect on them and to make a note of what you found easy, and what was more difficult. Add a note about the language you have used: have you found it helpful to use the words printed in bold type? Or have you found them difficult to build in to your writing? If so, we hope it will get easier as you work with them.

Exercise 8

So here goes with the exercises. This is a fair-sized piece of work for which you need time; but we hope that you will welcome such a task.

We want you to look closely at illustrations of three war memorials – a plaque on a wall at Newton Blossomville (Illustration G), a traditional Christian cross in Newport Pagnell (Illustration H) and the Canadian National Memorial at Vimy Ridge in France (Figure 2).

You may find it helpful to know that the plaque at Newton Blossomville (a village in Buckinghamshire) is on the outside of a house, on the other side of the road from the church, facing a little green called the Green Hill.

In Newport Pagnell (a small town near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire), the memorial is only a few feet from the church porch, and is near the main path up to the church from the High Street. It is in a rather confined space between some old buildings.

The Canadian memorial marks the site of a battle in 1917. But its purpose is to commemorate the 60,000 Canadians who lost their lives in the First World War. On the top of the monument are a series of figures representing Peace, Justice, Truth and Knowledge: there are figures also at the base of the monument, including one inscribed ‘Canada mourning her dead’.

I would like you to write two paragraphs about each of these memorials in turn:

First, write a paragraph describing what you see in Illustration G. In your second paragraph, consider the location of this memorial at Newton Blossomville, and whether the memorial's size is appropriate, and its form fitting to its function. Comment on any symbolism you see in the form of the memorial, and what the symbolism conveys. Your two paragraphs should total about 300 words.

Do the same for each of the other two memorials, answering the same questions, so that you have two paragraphs on the memorial at Newport Pagnell, and two on the Canadian memorial.

Finally, write a single paragraph contrasting the three memorials and your personal reactions to them.

Figure 2
Figure 2 The Canadian National Memorial at Vimy Ridge, France; the crowd gathered to attend the unveiling in July 1936. (Photograph: Popperfoto)
Illustration G Newton Blossomville, Buckinghamshire, Mike Levers/The Open University
Illustration H Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, Mike Levers/The Open University

Exercise 9

Look at Figure 3, the Carillon Tower in Loughborough, Leicestershire. Read the following information on its origin.

In 1919 the population of Loughborough was asked to vote for the kind of memorial they wished to see in the town to commemorate those who had died in the First World War. They voted for a carillon. A site in Queen's Park, and an architect, Mr Walter Tapper, was chosen; the foundation stone was laid in 1922. A subscription list raised £20,000, a considerable sum for a town of Loughborough's size. The carillon tower's height is 151 ft, and contains 47 bells. The tower was built with local labour, and the bells were cast in the town's foundry. Each of the bells carries an inscription giving the name of the donor, and the men commemorated; amongst the inscriptions are:

‘The gift of the sons of William and Anne Moss, Third Mayor and Mayoress of this Borough, two of whose grandsons Howard James Harding Moss (2nd Lieut, 5th Leicesters) and Gerald Alec Moss (2nd Lieut, 2nd Manchesters) fell in the Great War.’

The gift of the Loughborough Grammar School (Past and Present) in memory of the 57 Old Boys who fell in the Great War.’

The gift of the Engineering and Allied Trades of Loughborough.’

(Bray, 1981)

Write about 300 words on the Loughborough Carillon and its origins, considering especially how it came into being and the form the memorial takes. What does it tell you about the feelings of the citizens of Loughborough after the Great War? Would you have voted for a carillon, or for one of the other possibilities – a health centre or a conventional monument? Why?

Figure 3
Figure 3 The Carillon Tower, Queen's Park, Loughborough, designed by Sir Walter Tapper, 1922–3. (Photograph: A.F. Kersting)