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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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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 Michael Gordon, Project Assistant

The 16th and 17th of May this year mark the 70th Anniversary of Operation Chastise, better known as the “Dambusters” raids. These raids saw 19 modified Avro Lancaster bombers of 617 Squadron embark on a daring mission to destroy the dams within the Ruhr valley, in an attempt to cripple German industry.

Derwent Dam today (14270 and 14271 ©IWM, 2012)

Derwent Dam today (14270 and 14271 ©IWM, 2012)

617 Squadron was formed for the specific purposes of this mission and was equipped with a bespoke weapon, the now famous Bouncing Bomb codenamed ‘Upkeep’, designed by Barnes Wallis. This highly specialised mission required training and preparation unlike anything the crews had previously experienced. To prepare, the crews were sent to practise their technique at suitable locations within the UK.

Although the crews did not know the specifics of their mission during the training phases, it was quite obvious that they had been selected for a unique task due to the very specific topography of the practice locations. The crews were sent to four different locations to practise low level flying over water and precision targeting. We have recorded three memorials to these events which are located on the practice sites.

Eyebrook Reservoir in Stoke Dry, Rutland was mocked up with canvas towers to resemble the profile of the German targets. It was also used beyond the raids for further training with the ‘Upkeep’ bomb. A plaque at the site commemorates the reservoir’s importance in preparing the crews for the raids on the Mohne and Eder dams in Germany.

617 Squadron, Derwent Dam (14270 and 14271 ©Roy Branson, 2010)

617 Squadron, Derwent Dam (14270 and 14271 ©Roy Branson, 2010)

At Derwent Dam (14270) in Derbyshire, chosen because of its close resemblance to the Ruhr dams, there is a stone tablet inside the gatehouse recording the use of the dam by 617 Squadron.  In 1988, a further tablet was added, commemorating those who died during the raid. In 2008, a 65th Anniversary event was held at the Derwent Dam, involving a flypast by a Lancaster from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, which made low level passes over the dam at 100ft.

The exploits of 617 Squadron during Operation Chastise inspired their famous title of the Dambusters, and earned them a reputation as a precision bombing squadron for future operations.

The names of the 204 men of the Squadron who died in raids during the Second World War are inscribed upon the memorial wall to the Squadron at Royal Gardens, Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire. The wall has been purposely shaped to resemble a dam.

617 Squadron, Woodhall Spa (20485 ©Rachel Farrand, 2012)

617 Squadron, Woodhall Spa (20485 ©Rachel Farrand, 2012)

by Frances Casey, Project Manager

Yesterday, veterans of the Arctic Convoy were presented with the newly issued Arctic Star, awarded in recognition of their bravery during the campaign to carry military supplies to Russia during the Second World War. The presentation ceremony took place at the memorial at Loch Ewe in Wester Ross, Scotland, with over 30 of the surviving veterans in attendance. Loch Ewe was the place of departure for many of the ships that took part in what is recognised as one of the most arduous campaigns of the Second World War.

We have recorded 17 memorials which commemorate the Arctic Convoy. These include the ship’s bell from HMS Cassandra, which was presented to the D Day Museum in Portsmouth in 1999. The bell is mounted above a plaque which is inscribed with the names of the 62 crew who died when HMS Cassandra was torpedoed 11th December 1944, shortly after the ship left Murmansk on the return leg of her journey.

The Fleet Air Arm memorial, which is a sculpture of the figure of Daedalus, also commemorates the Arctic Convey and the role the Fleet Air Arm took in supporting Convoy ships, 1941-45. The Arctic Convoy is also commemorated in the Queen Elizabeth High School Book of Remembrance in Hexham, by the Ensign of HMS Bellona and by the Arctic Convoy Stone of Remembrance in Lyness, Orkney, another site of departure for the ships.

Arctic Convoy (44550, ©Russian Convoy Club, 2000)

Arctic Convoy Memorial, Loch Ewe (44550, ©Russian Convoy Club, 2000)

by Irene Glausiusz, Office Volunteer

‘Many war memorials commemorate people who have died’ said Rabbi Dr Abraham Levy, Head of the Spanish & Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, when he spoke at City Hall in London during the recent 2012 Holocaust Memorial Day event, hosted by Mayor of London Boris Johnson. What is different about the monument in the Bulgarian town of Plovdiv, Rabbi Levy observed, is that it is dedicated to those that ‘Did Live!’.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2012, City Hall, Anita Lasker-Wallfish calls for individuals to 'Speak up, Speak out'.

On 10th March 1943 the Jewish residents of Plovdiv were to be deported to the Nazi death camps, but an official from the Greek Orthodox hierarchy protested.  Lo and behold, deportation was cancelled and the people were told to go home.  In 1998 a marble pillar was raised to remember this event and sited on the very spot from which deportation had been scheduled.  Tragedy was averted because someone did ‘Speak Up, Speak Out’. It was this call to action that formed the theme of this year’s event.

A few of those who were spared, now in their eighties and nineties, are still living in Plovdiv in a retirement home. The keynote speaker, 84 year old Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, was arrested by the Nazis after it was discovered she was forging documents for prisoners of war. 

She was taken to Auschwitz and in all likelihood would have been killed, but her life was spared because she was an accomplished cellist and the camp orchestra needed one. To this day, she cannot imagine how it was that she survived.  Subsequently transported from Auschwitz to Bergen Belsen, she felt her life was ebbing away until miraculously, just in time, the camp was liberated by the British Army. She made the point that ‘Genocides arise when despots seek land or power. The victims had neither.’

Anita Lasker-Wallfisch said that sometimes TV viewers are warned about sights they might prefer not to watch.  Her contention was ‘Don’t look away.  You should know what is happening in war zones even now in the 21st Century.’ Later, Anita’s grandson Abraham gave a short cello recital which echoed his family’s musical virtuosity.

Testimonies were given by young people who had visited Auschwitz, sponsored by the Holocaust Educational Trust.  They would never forget the experience which opened their eyes to the evils of anti-Semitism, racism and prejudice, which regrettably are still prevalent in today’s society linked to hatred and discrimination.

Plovdiv Monument of Gratitude, 2012

Boris Johnson, addressing the gathering, said ‘This event is our chance to remember lives lost, as well as the remarkable resilience of survivors and everyone affected by one of the darkest periods in human history’.

 The Plovdiv memorial is named Monument of Gratitude and the dedicatory inscription in Hebrew is: To the memory of the man who assisted in the saving of the Jews of Plovdiv on 10th March 1943. The English inscription reads: To all who helped to save us on 10th March 1943, from the grateful Jewish community of Plovdiv.

This is a blog by Project Officer Frances Casey

The Mitford name is most famously associated with the six extraordinary daughters of David Freeman Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale (1878-1958). They were Nancy, the author of witty tales of family life; Pamela, whose love of farm life led John Betjeman to refer to her as the ‘Rural Mitford’; Diana the beauty and wife of the heir to the Guinness family, whom she later divorced in favour of Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists; Unity whose torn love between Hitler and her country led her to shoot herself at the outbreak of the Second World War; Decca the communist, who tried to donate her share of the family’s remote Scottish island, Inch Kenneth, to the Communist Party; and Deborah (Debo), the only surviving child and current Duchess of Devonshire. It would be understandable to assume that the stories of the male members of the family could not compare, but the family’s war memorials tell us an equally interesting story of the Mitford men.

Pew to Maj C Freeman Mitford (ukniwm 31692) and tablet to Major T Mitford (ukniwm 31693), ©ukniwm

In St Marys Church in the Oxfordshire village of Swinbrook, memorials to the Mitford family are mounted on the walls and, on closer inspection, the family pews can be found.

One of the pews was donated by David Freeman Mitford from his winnings on the Grand National in 1918 and was used by the family during services. The other is an ornately carved oak pew, dedicated to David’s elder brother Major Clement Freeman Mitford, who died in Flanders, aged 38, on 13th May 1915. This pew also remembers David and Clement’s father, Lord Redesdale (1837-1916), whose last year was overshadowed by the loss of his eldest son.

David’s daughter, Pamela, remembers her father crying openly when he heard of the death of his brother (The Mitford Girls, Mary S Lovell, 2001, pg35). As well as dedicating the pew, David organised an expedition to retrieve Clement’s battlefield cross from Belgium, now mounted in St Mary’s Church, Batsford, the family estate in the Cotswolds. On behalf of his father, David also erected commemorative wrought iron gates at the entrance to Vlamertinghe, the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery where Clement is buried. Clement’s death was to dramatically change the course of family history. He died before the birth of his only child, Clementine, in October 1915. As a girl, Clementine could not inherit the male Redesdale title. This was to pass to David, whose daughters would then become the titled ‘hons and debs’ of literary fame.

Swinbrook Cross, ©ukniwm 31691

On the wall above the pew dedicated to Clement hangs an oval tablet in memory of ‘a very perfect son and brother’, Major Thomas David Freeman Mitford, who died aged 36. Tom Mitford was David’s only son. According to Mary S Lovell, he was adored and teased in equal measure by his sisters, who would delight in making him ‘blither’ (giggle) during sermons in Swinbrook Church (Lovell, 2001, pg50).

The tablet records how Tom ‘died in Burma on Good Friday 30th March 1945 of wounds received in action on the previous Saturday’.  Devastated by the death of their son, David and his wife Sydney placed another tablet to Tom in Holy Trinity Church, Horsley, their estate in Northumberland. The tablets to Tom and the pew to Clement bear the Mitford motto ‘God Careth for Us’.

As well as the family memorials, David ensured that both Mitford men were remembered for their community role and had their names included on the Roll of Honour inside Swinbrook church and on the cross in the churchyard. Sydney, Nancy, Unity and Diana are all buried in Swinbrook churchyard.

Learning her Job at a Steelworks

It is sometimes claimed that women are not commemorated on war memorials. This is not true but you do have to look a bit harder to find them, only because their casualty rates weren’t as high. However, their contribution to the war effort is not as visible. This is set to be addressed by Sheffield Council who have announced that they will be working with women who worked in the steel industry during WW2 to create a memorial to recognise their efforts. 

Four ideas have been proposed: an abstract sculpture, a bronze sculpture, a garden of remembrance or commemorative plaques.

It will be interesting to see what they choose.