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by Roger Smither, IWM Research Associate

On holiday in Germany in September 2012, I noticed the St Georgsbrunnen, a striking war memorial fountain in the city of Speyer: water flows into a stone basin from a large metal bowl surmounted by an obelisk topped by a statue of St George slaying the dragon. Although St George is strongly identified as England’s patron saint, he is also one of Germany’s; he is also associated with soldiers and chivalry, so the use of his image on a German memorial should not be considered particularly surprising.

Speyer First World War memorial, Germany (©Roger Smither).

Speyer First World War memorial, Germany (©Roger Smither).

It was not just the memorial that caught my attention, however, but also the fact that the authorities had put up a plaque nearby offering a kind of apologia for it. Translated, this says: ‘The fountain was erected in 1930 as a memorial to the fallen of the First World War. The inscriptions and reliefs are an expression of the spirit of that time.’ It then notes that ‘The city of Speyer’s memorial for the victims of war and violence has, since 1985, been located in the northern Cathedral Garden.’

This struck me as sufficiently unusual to invite a closer look. Do the inscriptions and reliefs on the fountain obviously invite controversy or demand an apology?

There are four inscriptions on the stone basin of the fountain, three of which were originally illustrated by accompanying relief sculptures.

The main inscription readsUNSEREN GEFALLENEN ZUM GEDACHTNIS UND UNS SELBST ALS STETE MAHNUNG 1914+1918’, which may be translated as ‘In Memory of our fallen and as a reminder to ourselves’ – a common sentiment for a war memorial, and scarcely contentious.

The other three inscriptions are all quotations from songs or poems.

St George and the dragon, Speyer First World War memorial, Germany (©Roger Smither).

St George and the dragon, Speyer First World War memorial, Germany (©Roger Smither).

One offers the first two lines of Der gute Kamerad (The Good Comrade), a poem written by Ludwig Uhland in 1809 – ‘ICH HATT EINEN KAMERADEN, EINEN BESSERN FINDST DU NIT’ (I had a comrade, you won’t find a better one). Set to music by Friedrich Silcher In 1825, the poem long pre-dates the ideologies of the 1930s, and remains the traditional mourning song of the German Army. The accompanying relief illustrates the line – one soldier falls wounded in a marching group.

The second reads ‘DEUTSCHE FRAUEN, DEUTSCHE TREUE’ (German women, German loyalty), and is taken from the second verse of the Deutschlandlied – ‘Deutschland, Deutschland über alles’ – written by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben in 1841. This verse is little known these days, but it is ignored more because of its male chauvinist tendencies than because of its nationalism: it equates women with wine as inspirational pleasures of traditional Germany. This time, the accompanying relief shows two women digging in a field, to symbolise the home front war effort.

The third inscription reads ‘DEUTSCHLAND MUSS LEBEN AUCH WENN WIR STERBEN MÜSSEN’ (Germany must live, even if we must perish), which is the closing line of each verse of a 1914 poem, Soldatenabschied (Soldier’s Farewell) by Heinrich Lersch. This does sound quite nationalistic, but English readers will recall Rudyard Kipling’s very similar line ‘Who dies if England live?‘ which comes at the end of verse 4 of his poem For All We Have and Are, also written in 1914. On the fountain in this case the accompanying relief is missing, but it is possible to find reproductions of old postcards on the web, where it appears that the sculptor had depicted two soldiers in a trench.

Modern inscription near the Speyer First World War memorial, Germany (©Roger Smither).

Modern inscription near the Speyer First World War memorial, Germany (©Roger Smither).

None of this seems hugely controversial. A search of the IWM’s War Memorials Archive database finds over 60 memorials in the United Kingdom with ‘Who dies if England live?’ as part of their inscription, and it is hard to imagine that the relevant local authority has thought it necessary to add an explanation or apology in any of those cases. As an example of even more overt nationalism on a British memorial, Frances Casey, Project Manager of the Archive, has drawn my attention to the one at Brierley Hill, which includes – without any hint of apology – the following text:

THIS MONUMENT / WAS ERECTED BY THEIR FELLOW / TOWN FOLK TO THE MEMORY OF / BRIERLEY HILL MEN / WHO LOYALLY GAVE THEIR LIVES / IN DEFENCE OF / COUNTRY AND CIVILISATION / AGAINST AGGRESSIVE / AMBITIONS OF / GERMANY / AUSTRIA & TURKEY / IN THE GREAT WAR

Brierley Hill First World War memorial (IWM WMA 17472,  ©G A Cox)

Brierley Hill First World War memorial (IWM WMA 17472, ©G A Cox)

With the help of Christa Rinner, a researcher based in Karlsruhe, I have learned that the memorial fountain in Speyer is the work of the architect Karl Latteyer of Ludwigshafen and a British-born sculptor named William Ohly, who both attended its official inauguration on 29 June 1930, and that – although there does not seem to have been any specific event in Speyer to prompt it – the explanatory plaque was added in 1996, when the need to replace some of the piping led to a full-scale restoration of the fountain.

There may not have been such an episode in Speyer but it remains true, of course, that war memorials can be controversial, and they have undoubtedly been the focus of protest elsewhere. Demonstrators in the former Eastern Bloc have often targeted Soviet war memorials with either hostility or derision, including an episode in Bulgaria in 2011 when a street artist painted the figures on the Soviet memorial in Sofia to represent American comic-book characters.

The Coalition invasion of Iraq in 2003 prompted a French protestor to spray-paint ‘Rosbeefs Go Home’ and other slogans on the cross of a CWGC cemetery at Etaples, and there was outrage in India in 2012 when protestors in Mumbai were photographed attacking the Amar Jawan Jyoti memorial which commemorates two Sepoys executed during the 1857 uprising.

More recently, the Animals in War and Bomber Command memorials in London were subjected to graffiti following the murder outside Woolwich Barracks of Drummer Rigby, 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. I wonder, do war memorials present political statements in themselves? Why are they used as sites of protest? How often do civic authorities try to defuse objections before they are raised? It strikes me that the politics of war memorials could be an interesting topic for further research.


 
 
 
 

By Frances Casey, Project Manager

Ten years ago this month, the UK mobilised 45,000 troops and combined forces with the United States, Australia and Poland in an invasion of Iraq which sought to depose the Ba’athist government of Saddam Hussein. On 20th March 2003, following an air-strike on the Iraqi Presidential Palace the previous day, coalition troops entered Iraq by land and water. The invasion was named ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ by the United States. The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) assigned it the computer generated name of ‘Operation TELIC’. This followed MOD policy to allocate non-political names to operations.

Today, the invasion and subsequent conflict is commonly known as the Iraq War. For UK forces, the war lasted for 6 years and 2 months, with UK combatant troops withdrawing on 22nd May 2009, whilst US troops withdrew later, on 18th December 2011. The war deployed 15,000 more UK troops than the 30,000 involved in the Falklands War and the UK suffered 179 service personnel casualties over the period of the war.

Glenrothes civic memorial includes Iraq War casualties, Glenrothes (IWM 56533 ©Mark Imber)

To date, we have recorded 76 memorials commemorating the Iraq War. These include new memorials that have been created for the purpose, such as a memorial erected in memory of Black Watch casualties at Balhousie Castle and a stone of remembrance to six members of 849 Aircrew who were killed when two Royal Navy Sea King helicopters collided on 22nd March 2003. Both of these memorials were erected in the UK during the war.

The names of Iraq War casualties have also been added to existing war memorials, including those in Workington, Cumbria; East Cowick, Yorkshire; Warrington, Cheshire; and Bridgend, Wales. A new civic memorial of six standing stones has been erected in Glenrothes, Scotland which includes the names of two casualties from Iraq. The town of Glenrothes was established in 1948 and the memorial is the first commemoration for casualties of the town.  

Specific units have created new memorials or added the names of Iraq casualties to existing memorials. Casualties have been added to the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit memorial in Warwickshire and in Edinburgh, the regimental memorial to the 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys) lists the names of casualties of the regiment from the Boer War (1899-1902) to the Iraq War (2003-2009).

Civilian casualties of the Iraq War are also commemorated by memorials. In St Brides Church, Fleet Street, in London there is a memorial to the 18 journalists ‘who lost their lives while covering the war in Iraq AD 2003’. The roles listed on the memorial include cameramen, translators, a sound recordist and news correspondents. Amongst those named is ITN Middle East Correspondent Terry Lloyd, who was shot by US forces on 22nd March 2003, as he reported on the invasion.   

Memorial to UK service personnel killed in Iraq Operation TELIC, National Memorial Arboretum (IWM 59914, ©IWM 2011)

The national memorial to UK Service casualties of the Iraq War was unveiled in the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire on 11th March 2010. This memorial takes the form of a wall mounted with 179 plaques with the name, regiment, date of death and age of each of the UK Service personnel and the one MOD civilian that died.

The original memorial wall was built in 2006 by troops stationed in Iraq, and had stood outside the HQ of Multi-National Division (South East) in Basra airbase. During the war, the wall and the plaques were a focus for remembrance for those serving. As discussions took place in 2008-9 to withdraw troops from Iraq, securing the future of the memorial was a concern for both families and troops, and it was decided to dismantle the wall when the troops withdrew. The bricks used for the original wall were found to be too soft for the UK climate, so a new memorial was devised which used the original bricks as the foundation and core of a memorial wall enclosed by marble.

The wall commemorates those Iraq War personnel who died as a result of accident or illness as well as those who died in the direct line of fire. It also lists members of the Coalition Forces who were killed whilst under UK command during the six years of conflict.

Ten years on, and number of memorials to the Iraq War is likely to increase. New memorials to casualties of the war are still being erected and the names of casualties continue to be added to existing community and regimental memorials. 

Following his one day visit to Iraq on 17th December Gordon Brown announced that the Basra memorial wall, where he laid a wreath in memory of the 178 servicemen and women who have died in Iraq, would be brought back along with British troops to  ‘a fitting resting place of its own in our own country’. The brick wall, which has brass plaques with the names of those who died, will be dismantled from its current location in Basra airbase when the last of the 4,100 troops leave at the end of July 2009.  

Basra Memorial, Iraq, 2008

Basra Memorial, Iraq, 2008 (photo courtesy of MOD)

There will probably be much discussion about where the memorial should be resited, as it commemorates service personnel from all parts of the UK, as well as a few from elsewhere. Debates may also take place over whether it will be re-erected in exactly the same form, or if additions and changes will be made. Perhaps the strongest feeling will be that the same bricks and plaques should be re-assembled without embellishment, since they were erected by the troops themselves and have been the focus of commemoration for those serving.

A new memorial plaque has been unveiled at Llanelli District Cemetery for a local soldier who died in action in Iraq on 7 July 2007. 

Lance Corporal Francis was the driver of a Warrior armoured fighting vehicle that was hit by a roadside bomb while on patrol in northern Basra.  He was 23 years old and on his third tour of duty in Iraq with the 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh.

Read more about the unveiling ceremony from Llanelli Star 

Read more about Lance Corporal Francis from the Ministry of Defence

Today’s post is really outside of the remit of the UKNIWM.  It’s about an American serviceman who died last week, serving in Iraq.  He doesn’t appear on a memorial (yet at least) and if he did, it would not be in the UK. 

But, I still wanted to share this.  It’s about the personal experience of war and sacrifice and how we remember people, things that are very central to the work of the UKNIWM. 

Major Andrew Olmsted left his own memorial.  The following is part of a statement he gave to a friend, to be published on her blog, in the event of his death.

“What I don’t want this to be is a chance for me, or anyone else, to be maudlin. I’m dead. That sucks, at least for me and my family and friends. But all the tears in the world aren’t going to bring me back, so I would prefer that people remember the good things about me rather than mourning my loss. (If it turns out a specific number of tears will, in fact, bring me back to life, then by all means, break out the onions.) I had a pretty good life, as I noted above. Sure, all things being equal I would have preferred to have more time, but I have no business complaining with all the good fortune I’ve enjoyed in my life. So if you’re up for that, put on a little 80s music (preferably vintage 1980-1984), grab a Coke and have a drink with me. If you have it, throw ‘Freedom Isn’t Free’ from the Team America soundtrack in; if you can’t laugh at that song, I think you need to lighten up a little. I’m dead, but if you’re reading this, you’re not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact.

Read the rest of his statement and more about Andrew

A play park in Aberdeen, dedicated to a young serviceman killed by a sniper in Iraq last year, has been vandalised for the second time in just three months. 

In the first incident £4,000 of damage was caused and a 9 year old boy was charged with the offence. Police are appealing for witnesses to the latest damage.

Read more from BBC News

Lance Corporal Allan Douglas had played on the land as a child and the park was officially named in his honour in September 2007.

See UKNIWM record for Allan Douglas Park

Corporal John Rigby, a young British soldier who was killed in June this year after being injured in a roadside bomb in Iraq, has had his name added his home town’s war memorial.

Cpl. Rigby died on his 24th birthday with his twin brother Will, a corporal in the same battalion, by his side.

The memorial cross in Rye, East Sussex, already bears the names of 190 local people who gave their lives for their country in the First and Second World Wars and one name from the Gulf War, Fusilier Stephen Satchell who was killed in February 1991 at the age of 18.

Fus. Satchell is already commemorated on the new Armed Forces memorial in Stafforshire and Cpl. Rigby’s name will be added in time.