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By Frances Casey, Project Manager

Seventy four years ago this week, at 11.15 a.m. on 3rd September 1939, the Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain broadcast a statement to the nation which announced that Britain was at war with Germany. At the War Memorials Archive we have recorded 23,551 memorials in the UK which commemorate the Second World War of 1939-45, and 880 more memorials which are specifically to civilians of that war.

Amongst those that we have recorded, there is one memorial which is unlike any other: ‘The Angel of Peace’, a plaster bas-relief of a kneeling angel, gives thanks for the peace achieved by Chamberlain as a result of his visit to Munich in 1938 and also refers to the birth of his grand-daughter.

A typed label attached to the reverse of the memorial reads: ‘A Thankoffering made by Miss Agatha Walker under the inspiration of the visit of the Prime Minister (Mr. Neville Chamberlain) to Munich in September 1938. Given to Mrs. Carnegie* for his grand-daughter Anne Mary Lloyd born in that month’

The Angel of Peace Tablet, September 1938 (IWM WMA 63989 ©Maggs Bros Ltd)

The Angel of Peace Tablet, September 1938 (IWM WMA 63989 ©Maggs Bros Ltd)

Chamberlain’s visit to Munich in September of 1938 resulted in the Munich Agreement whereby parts of Czechoslovakia were annexed by Germany, an act that Chamberlain believed would satisfy Germany’s desires for territorial expansion. The agreement has since been seen as an act of appeasement. However, in his declaration of war made a year later, following Germany’s invasion of Poland, Chamberlain expressed his personal disappointment that his efforts for peace had failed:

‘You can imagine what a bitter blow it is to me that all my long struggle to win peace has failed. Yet I cannot believe that there is anything more or anything different that I could have done and that would have been more successful.’

As a memorial to Neville Chamberlain’s peacemaking, the Angel of Peace is the earliest memorial we have recorded that can be associated with the Second World War. It is also a memorial to a hope of peace that was short-lived, as well as a personal family celebration of the birth of Chamberlain’s grand-daughter. Agatha Walker was a sculptor and pottery figure artist, and the likelihood is that she made the tablet herself.

*Mrs Carnegie was Neville Chamberlain’s step-mother

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Capt A Ridgway portrait window (IWM 42896, 2000)by Ashley Garber, Project Assistant

By Ashley Garber, Project Assistant.

We recently received an inquiry asking us how rare it is for the portrait of an individual casualty to be memorialised in a stained glass window. Whilst the names of the fallen usually serve as the focus for commemoration on memorials, some memorials do include a portrait of the dead, and stained glass windows are particularly expressive examples of this.

Portrait windows would have been very expensive, and only a few families would have been able to afford the cost of such a memorial. Even so, we have recorded 11 definite examples.

These include a window in St Peters Church, Oughtrington, Cheshire, which depicts Captain Althorp Ridgway, who died 12th May 1915. Ridgway is dressed in the armour of a medieval knight and his portrait actually appears twice in the window: as the face of the more prominent standing knight, and also in profile as the kneeling knight below. Local lore claims that the artist, Archibald K Nicholson, not having met Ridgway, relied on a photograph of him in order to complete these portraits.

Wilson brothers window (©IWM)

The Wilson brothers memorial window in St Andrews Church, Chippenham, Wiltshire is a poignant family portrait.

All three brothers – Herbert Raymond, Evelyn Seppings, and Geoffrey Mervyn Underhill – were killed in the First World War. They appear in uniform in the window, yet they do not constitute the focus, which is dominated by Archangels and scenes of war, regimental devices and references to Flanders.

Instead, the portraits appear in the background in the far left light, behind the figure of a grieving woman, which may be their mother.

The medium of portrait windows allows an opportunity to define relationships visually in a way that other memorial types cannot.

East window, Church Norton, Chichester (©The Friends of St Wilfrids Church Norton, 2006)

An example of this is the East window in St Wilfrids Chapel in Church Norton, Chichester. This window was commissioned by Captain Maurice Wingfield, owner of the nearby Norton Priory, and commemorates, in portraiture, his wife Stephanie Agnes, who died in 1918; his brother Captain John Wingfield, who died of wounds 29th April 1915; and his close friend, Captain the Honourable Thomas Agar-Roberts MP, who died on 30th September 1915, also of wounds.

Both men appear dressed in armour in the window and Stephanie Agnes is depicted as the Agnes Dei.

By Frances Casey, Project Manager

One lesser known fact is that the UK National Inventory of War Memorials  records memorials to those who died whilst in active service as a result of accident or disease as ‘non-combat’ deaths. One such case of note is that of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, who died one hundred years ago today on 29th March 1912, whilst attempting to return from the South Pole during his British Antarctic Expedition.

Captain Robert Falcon Scott and the Antarctic Expeditionary Team (©ukniwm, 2011)

The expedition, also known as the Terra Nova Expedition, named after the ship in which the party sailed, was a private venture for which Scott was responsible.

In 1909, released on half-pay from his position as naval assistant to the Second Sea Lord, Scott began to plan and then took command of the expedition, which he intended to be the first to reach the South Pole.

On 1st November 1911, the party set off, yet the five-man team that eventually succeeded in reaching the Pole on 18th January 1912 were disappointed to find that the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had been there before them. Returning home, they faced severe weather conditions, scant rations and failing health.

Captain Scott was on active service in the Royal Navy when he died, weakened by hunger and unable to proceed due to blizzard conditions, and that is why, despite the fact that he did not die in war or conflict, we include memorials that commemorate his death. Of his four companions, all of whom perished, three were in service at the time of their deaths.

Captain Lawrence E G Oates is listed in the Army List (1913) as previously employed with the British Antarctic Expedition since 1910 and in ‘Special extra-Regimental employment’ (29 March 1910). Oates, an officer with the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons, saw action in the Second Boer War, during which time he received a wound to his leg.

On the return journey from the South Pole, Oates suffered severe frostbite to his feet and his old wound was aggravated by this condition. Fearing that his ill health was a burden on the other members of the party and would slow their progress, on 16th March 1912, he left the tent in which they were sheltering with the words, recorded by Scott in his diary, “I am just going outside and may be some time”. Captain Oates is thought to have died on 17th March 1912, the date of his 32nd birthday. Memorials to Oates include one erected this year, on the anniversary of both his birth and death, on the wall of his family home in Meanwoodside (now Meanwood Park), Leeds.

Plaque to the Antarctic Expeditionary Team (©ukniwm, 2011)

Lieutenant Henry Robinson Bowers, who played a key role in navigating the team to the Pole, was serving with the Royal Navy and Royal Indian Marine at the time of his death, which is also thought to be around the 29th March 1912. Edgar Evans, who died on 17th February 1912, was a Petty Officer in the Royal Navy. The only civilian in the ill-fated return party was Dr Edward Adrian Wilson, who, as well as acting as the party’s medical doctor, was a talented artist and naturalist. Wilson’s paintings survived the expedition and show the wildlife encountered as well as portraits of members of the party battling the elements.

The most striking memorial to Scott is perhaps that which shows him in Arctic weather clothing. Sculpted by his widow, Lady Scott, a professional sculptress, it was commissioned and paid for by officers of the Royal Navy and is in memory of all five members of the expedition who died. Lady Scott also sculpted the memorial to Dr Edward Wilson in his home town of Cheltenham, which we have not recorded in the Inventory due to Wilson’s civilian, non-war related status.

Other notable non-combat death memorials are to Captain Cook , who was killed in Hawaii in 1779 whilst conducting an exploration of the Northern Pacific, Captain Francis Crozier, who is thought to have died in 1848 when attempting to return from the 1845 expedition with Sir John Franklin in search of the North-West passage, and Major General Henry Havelock who died in 1857 of dysentery contracted during the Indian Mutiny (1857-58).

 

By Paul Breen, Office Volunteer  

On the junction of Manor Mews and Cambridge Avenue, just off the Kilburn High Road in London, is the RSPCA Animals War Memorial Dispensary, a building dedicated to those animals that died in The First World War.  

Animals War Memorial Dispensary (UKNIWM 10995 ©English Heritage)

The Animals War Memorial Dispensary is an attractive 19th Century two storey building with shuttered windows to the upper floor and stone tablets either side of the front door. The tablets, which can be read by all who enter the building, record the fact that nearly half a million animals met their deaths during the First World War and that approximately three quarters of a million animals of all descriptions, including hundreds of dogs and carrier pigeons, were treated in France at RSPCA field hospitals.

Above the front door is a large bronze plaque depicting the figure of winged Victory, holding wreaths in each hand, surrounded by pairs of animals including horses, elephants, dogs, oxen, mules, and camels. The plaque was the creation of Frederick Brook Hitch, FRSBS, who was also responsible for the National Submarine War Memorial (1922) on the Victoria Embankment and the statue of Charles Wesley (1939) at the Methodist Chapel in Bristol, as well as a number of other commissions world- wide. His brother, John Oliver Brook Hitch MC, was the architect responsible for the conversion of the building to an animal dispensary.

The dispensary was opened on 10th November 1932 by Frances Evelyn ‘Daisy’ Greville, Countess of Warwick: a well known animal lover, the Countess kept a menagerie of birds and animals on her estate at Easton Lodge near Great Dunmow in Essex.  

Animals War Memorial Dispensary (UKNIWM 10995 ©English Heritage)

In its opening year the dispensary treated over 6,000 animals and still functions today as a busy clinic for sick animals, fulfilling the RSPCA’s founding intention that it act as ‘a memorial that would benefit living animals’. It is now Grade II listed and is a unique building to the memory of animals killed in the First World War. The dedication of the building is made more poignant by the request it makes for us to show kindness and consideration to animals in the present day.

This article was submitted by Derbyshire Volunteer Co-ordinator, Roy Branson

Many aeroplanes crashed in the UK during the Second World War, some as direct casualties of conflict shot down by anti-aircraft fire or in aerial combat, some because they just could not get back to base after sustaining earlier damage. What is lesser known is that in the years immediately following the war navigational and weather problems also led to crashes and the Peak District of Derbyshire seems to have had more than its share of these.  

Bleaklow crash site on skyline

Bleaklow crash site on skyline

Several years ago I became intrigued by a story about a wartime aeroplane crash site featured in Blood on the Tongue, a crime novel by Stephen Booth.  Set in the Peak District, Booth’s geography is fictional, based on a mixture of features drawn from all over the area, but a possible inspiration for the story may have been wreckage still to be found on Bleaklow, east of Glossop.  Intrigued by Booth’s fiction, I decided to visit this crash site, which is known to have a memorial.

In 1948, a United States Air Force (USAF) Superfortress crashed near a remote moorland hilltop. It was delivering mail from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire to USAF Burtonwood in Cheshire. The crash occured by a cruel trick of fate: if the aircraft had been ten metres higher it would have cleared the hilltop and would probably have reached its destination.

In view of the location, careful preparations had to be made for my visit to the crash site. Amongst the problems of walking in the Peak District are weather conditions, which can change very quickly, and the sheer isolation. After postponing the walk on the first attempt due to heavy rain, I set off with a colleague equipped with walking gear, maps, compass, gps equipment and whistle (no mobile phone signal in these parts) and emergency rations. The moorland is not called Bleaklow for nothing and we were not keen to become the subjects of one of Derbyshire’s several mountain rescue teams.

Wreaths and tributes form a shrine at the crash site

Wreaths and tributes form a shrine at the crash site

In the event, weather conditions were good and leaving Snake Pass, good progress was made along the Pennine Way. After walking for one and a half hours the crash site was reached. The last kilometre was off the path and through boggy peat moorland. Wreckage still covers a huge area and is in remarkable condition after sixty years. Some of the steel components of the undercarriage and engines are now quite rusty but most panels merely possess the patina typical of oxidised aluminium. A few stainless steel components seemed as bright and shiny as the day they were fashioned.

Final destination: reading the memorial

Final destination: memorial to the thirteen airmen

Despite its remoteness the site receives many visitors and has developed the characteristics of a shrine. Many crosses have been constructed; some by repositioning pieces of wreckage, but others are formed from rocks placed in patterns on the bare peat. At least one of these is visible from the air, as users of Google Earth can confirm!

One large piece of panelling forms a rudimentary shelter over a mound of peat which has become covered with wreaths, tributes and small British Legion crosses. Amongst this scene stands the subject of the visit: a sandstone pillar bearing a bronze plaque commemorating the thirteen airmen who lost their lives in a tragic accident.

This article was submitted by UKNIWM volunteer fieldworker Gordon Amand

You may wonder what have Roman remains got to do with war memorials. Well, it would appear that in Prospect Park, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire a chance investigation has led to the discovery of a strange coincidence.

It began in the summer of 2007, when after a period of heavy rainfall (a feature that seems to have characterised that summer), the 18th century wall dividing the church cemetery from Prospect Park collapsed. The park, on slightly higher ground than the cemetery by about 5 feet, overlooks a U bend in the River Wye. It is here that Ross district chose to site their war memorial in 1920, with a commanding view of the river and surrounding countryside.

Excavation of Roman remains found beneath the war memorial

Excavation of Roman remains found beneath the Ross District war memorial

After a discussion between the Church authority and County Council, repair work to the wall commenced in early 2008, but it was not long underway when remains of an ancient occupation were found in the ground layers of the park and it was discovered that the war memorial had been erected directly on top of a Roman settlement. The war memorial, a rough hewn plinth and cross with the names of the district’s fallen was dismantled and stored, whilst archaeologists investigated the area, recovering a number of artefacts. It would seem that both the Roman settlers and the town’s people of 1920 valued the view, but for different reasons.

Following the excavation, the site was re-covered to preserve it for future investigation. As November approached, people in the town began to ask if the annual remembrance service would be held as usual in the Prospect. A surprisingly quick decision was made to reposition the memorial approximately 50m from it original location. The annual Remembrance service then took place on a cold and wet Sunday morning. Interestingly, this was the second time in 2008 that a memorial was rededicated in this area. In March, the Greytree memorial was re-dedicated, having been refurbished. I am not sure if there are many other towns in the UK where two memorials have been re-dedicated in the same year.

The re-sited memorial in Prospect Park

It is now hoped that the newly discovered Roman remains will be further explored, and will eventually prove a visitor attraction for the town. Meanwhile, a little way along the hillside, the war memorial stands, once more overlooking the towns and fields from which those it commemorates came.

What, you may ask, do children’s building bricks have to do with war memorials? Well, read on….

Richter’s Anchor Blocks were invented in Germany in 1882 and were popular throughout the Europe, the UK and America for many years. But the advent of WW1 and the resulting restriction on German imports provided an opportunity for a British manufacturer to break into the market. Ernest Lott leased premises in Bushey, Hertfordshire to make a British version known as Lott’s Bricks.

A series of boxes designed for specific projects were produced e.g. Tudor Blocks to enable kids (and maybe Dads!) to reproduce the fashionable mock-Tudor house that was springing up all over suburbia. But of particular interest to us is Box 3. Amongst the ideas of what to build there is a plan for a War Memorial.

The nature of the bricks meant that it was of a modernist design, albeit topped with a cross, and its monumentality is perhaps reminiscent of the larger Commonwealth War Graves Commission crosses rather than a community one. However, one piece of publicity shows a smaller design, more proportional to the surrounding houses. To find out more, there is still time to see an interesting exhibition at Bushey Museum and Art Gallery, Hertfordshire in which the memorial features. It closes on November 2nd 2008 so you had better be quick!

I wonder how many other war memorial toys have been produced?