Monday, 28 March 2016

Ways of Remembering

On my way to New Bond Street the other day, I couldn't resist wading through the traffic to have a look at Hyde Park Corner and the various memorials that stand there. Each time I do this, I wonder if it is really beyond the wit of transport planners to redirect the cars and trucks that form an almost constant cordon round the Corner's little island of grass. If they shoved the whole lot underground, the place would become properly accessible to people, while also giving the wonderful house at No. 1 London the room to breathe that it deserves:

I have to say that no matter how many times I look at it I find the design of the memorial to the machine guns corps intriguing. Did they fight naked? It seems unlikely:

The New Zealand monument is less baffling, even if does look like a slightly demented fencer has knocked off for lunch or, having set up the posts, gone into town to get the fencing wire to link them with:

Part of the problem is obviously that these monuments are all grouped in the same spot as possibly the greatest war memorial ever designed, the Royal Artillery memorial, with 'Here was a royal fellowship of death' inscribed around its base and the tragic figures made by Charles Jagger, grouped around it:

Recumbent Artilleryman

Shell Carrier

The one that comes off worst in this encounter, sadly, is the Australian memorial, which was summed up all too accurately recently by the sculptor Michael Sandle in an interview on Radio 3. This is what he had to say about it:

"The Australian Memorial looks like a pissoir in an upmarket hotel designed by a 12-year-old girl"

I'm afraid I find it hard to argue with that, although I do wonder why Sandle feels the need to specify the imaginary perpetrator's gender - would it make things better if it had been conceived by a 12-year-old boy?

(I found this article about the Jagger memorial interesting, by the way)


  1. The motto on the Machine Gun Corps memorial, "Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands" has always struck me as odd. Were the riflemen to run mad with jealousy?

    Sculptors let their taste for the human form distract them. Nobody with a better choice would be naked around a machine casting hot brass cartridges; and the weather in Flanders didn't much encourage nudity.

    1. You could not be more right about Flanders, as I know from bitter experience. Now that I spend rather a lot of time there, I have become the owner of a large number of pairs of thermolactic socks, (sorry, that is not the ,out interesting information ever published. I admit)