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Remembered Today:

ROYAL ARMS ON WAR MEMORIALS


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A curious case. The War Memorial at Wanstead, ih the more slaubrious part of East London, has a a file on 100 year closure at The National Archives Its in the series HO144, which usually concerns legal points. I have applied to see it under FOI. Apparently, in 1920-1922 a war memorial committee-there must have been hundrds of them up and down the country- asked for permission to use the royal coat of arms on its local memorial. Which was refused. The Committee's papers have long since disappeared but it raised a thought- the royal coat of arms seems to be conspicuosuly absent from most war memorials and its not exactly common in WGC cemetries.

Has anyone else noticed this apparent contradiction -1914-18-fight for "King and Country"-after 1918, the powers-that-be dont want the royal arms used. I will post the results of the file contents if the Home Office Departmental Record Officer allows me to see the file.

But does anyone else have any. info regarding the use of royal arms or why the government should refuse?????

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I am not entirely clear why the Royal Arms would appear on a war memorial. The royal arms are the arms of the monarch. There would have to have been a very direct association with the monarch and probably not even then. The arms of the monarch are not the arms of the country.

R.

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Exactly- thats what I assume as well. But the paradox between "King and Country" during the war and a lack of royal association after the war is an intriguing one.

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It is also a matter of heraldic law. I think more strongly enforced in Scotland than England.

R.

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I am not entirely clear why the Royal Arms would appear on a war memorial. The royal arms are the arms of the monarch. There would have to have been a very direct association with the monarch and probably not even then. The arms of the monarch are not the arms of the country.

Ah, but they are in a way. Royal Arms usually refers to a design much like:

http://www.flyingcolours.org/uploads/u-z/united_kingdom/royal_and_vice-regal_flags/the_royal_arms_as_used_by_hm_government.gif

This basic design is the same used on the General Service buttons found on the vast majority of SD buttons used by the Army during the war, as well as the General Service cap badge. It is a essentially a non-regimentally specific design all soldiers could be entitled to. Someone only recently posted a picture of a war memorial with the three branches of the services represented by the RAF crowned eagle, the RN's crowned fouled-anchor - and the Army by the Royal Arms.

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Essentially, this is a matter of a point of view. I have always imagined that local war memorials were a way for a local community, local people, to remember their own dead, and if any coat of arms were felt appropriate, I would have thought it would be the arms of the local borough or perhaps county.

Aside from that socio-philosophical aspect, inclusion of the Royal arms would imply that the Sovereign, or someone directly on his behalf, had approved all the details of the memorial, including the design, location and selection of names - take a moment to ponder what that would involve.

Moreover, the Sovereign, or someone on his behalf, would have to ensure that the arms were faithfully reproduced in precise detail, and we know, with constant references to errors in simple things like names, how difficult that might be.

I am not at all surprised that permission for the Royal arms was refused. I am surprised that a 100-year embargo should have been put on the Home Office (the government department responsible for matters to do with the Royal family) file on the matter. Possibly there is a general rule that all such matters are automatically embargoed for 100 years, irrespective of their individual content. Or possibly the file actually contains a comment from George V, which comes under the 100-year rule. If Wanstead has waited patiently for 92 years, is there a real problem about waiting for another eight?

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I'd suspect from the date of the file that the extended closure on this file was applied under the old system of Lord Chancellor's Instruments (which controlled extended closure, accelerated opening and retention of documents by departments under the Public Records Acts), rather than under the modern FOI regime (though I could be wrong). Quite a lot of material under the general heading of use of the Royal Arms and title Royal was reviewed following the introduction of FOI, but I don't imagine all of it was.

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Wasn't it the King himself who requested the insertion of 'King' into 'Fought for King and Country' when it was originally only going to be 'Fought for his Country'?

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