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Remembered Today:

Hyde Park Corner Artillery Memorial


Bruce Dennis
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Can anyone tell me (or point me toward) the story of this impressive piece?

Thanks in advance,

Bruce

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Hi Bruce

The sculptor was Charles Sargeant Jagger. The RA memorial is one of my favourites (if that is the right word) as is the memorial to the GWR employees at Paddington Station. There is heaps about him and his memorials on the net:

e.g. here

and here

Charles

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The architecture was by Adams, Holden and Pearson, and the sculptor was Charles Sargeant Jagger. Jagger won the Prix de Rome in 1914 (in the previous year he had been runner-up to Gilbert Ledward, another Great War memorial sculptor) but instead of taking up the prize, the onset of war saw him joining the Artists Rifles. He fought at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, was wounded twice and won the MC. His other memorial work included a relief of the First Battle of Ypres for the abandoned Hall of Remembrance project, the National Memorial in Brussels, the Tank Memorial at Louveral, the Great Western Railway memorial at Paddington, and memorials at Hoylake and Bedford. He died in 1934 at the untimely age of 49.

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The architecture was by Adams, Holden and Pearson, and the sculptor was Charles Sargeant Jagger. Jagger won the Prix de Rome in 1914 (in the previous year he had been runner-up to Gilbert Ledward, another Great War memorial sculptor) but instead of taking up the prize, the onset of war saw him joining the Artists Rifles. He fought at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, was wounded twice and won the MC. His other memorial work included a relief of the First Battle of Ypres for the abandoned Hall of Remembrance project, the National Memorial in Brussels, the Tank Memorial at Louveral, the Great Western Railway memorial at Paddington, and memorials at Hoylake and Bedford. He died in 1934 at the untimely age of 49.

I've always rated hie work quite highly, very stout moving pieces, now that I know that he actually served explains the realism and sense of catastrophe and loss, completely unlike other pieces from other wars.

Thanks for that!

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Hello, thanks everybody for the background. I guess I should have started with a better question: does anybody know the story behind this memorial? I understand that it was controversial when it was proposed, and caused some distress and debate when it was revealed. The stark images of real people in service dress, eyes downcast, no heroic poses and postures, makes it the most chilling of monuments in my eyes: its effect so soon after the war I cannot imagine.

The most prominent position and the scale of the structure lead me to ask how the choice was made for the subject: the losses by the artillery company were large, for sure, but did other services/corps/campaigns want the site? Was the choice of Jagger, (Northern, Artists Rifles) as sculptor a political hot potato? There is a book on his work available, but no local library has it and at around £95 I won’t be going that route.

Perhaps I am reading too much into the matter, but it is one of the most moving monuments in London and there must be a story behind how it was chosen.

Charles, the link you gave to The Sunday Times article was excellent and I recommend everyone to read it.

Bruce

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The "model" for the figures was one of the Fosten brothers IIRC.

I have a programme for the opening ceremony and a newspaper article describing the scenes if anybody wants I will post an extract.

Also contains a photograph of some of the horses that took part in the ceremony that survived the war with the RHA I think. No scanner I'm afraid and will have to wait until next year (Tuesday onward).

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The prime position may owe something to the King who was the Colonel-in-Chief. It may also be that the Royal Artillery was held to be in some sense representative of the entire infantry effort. I don’t know how the architects and sculptor were chosen but an earlier and unrealised design with echoes of the Cenotaph was submitted by no less a luminary than Lutyens. I doubt whether Jagger could have been a controversial choice, given his outstanding artistic promise and war record.

In his Buildings of England series, Pevsner describes the Royal Artillery memorial as “A moving work, now recognised as a masterpiece of British 20th Century sculpture.” Jagger’s declared intention was not only to portray war, remembrance and compassion but also to provide an accurate historical record for posterity. A roll of honour is buried beneath the figure of the dead gunner and the stone howitzer is said to be laid theoretically on a target in the Somme battlefield.

There was some controversy after the unveiling in 1925 but it seems to have centred on the howitzer rather than the figures and panels. The feeling was that this machine of war and destruction was an uneasy companion for so many of those who had been killed by something very similar. And by 1925, with the enormous toll of death and injury, and all the distress and hardship trailing in its wake, people were no doubt glad to remember the dead but loathe to recall the mechanics of war.

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The prime position may owe something to the King who was the Colonel-in-Chief.

Ahhhh....

Squirrel, yes please.

I think I will dig at the National Archives next visit. If anything interesting turns up I will post it.

Many thanks,

Bruce

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I stood and admired this memorial only a few weeks ago before a meeting in nearby Knightsbridge. It really is magnificent and it is clear that the sculptor had a deep personal knowledge of the subject matter.

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The figures are quite superb as is the one in Paddington Station.

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Bruce and others

I can shed some more light on the questions you raise by drawing on a article by James Stevens Curl published in the book called Charles Sargeant Jagger: War and Peace Scultpure. This book was edited by Ann Compton who wrote The Sculpture of Charles Sargeant Jagger (Sept. 2004). I have made a PDF copy of Curl's article, which runs to nineteen pages. I'm not sure whether I can attach this file to a post. Therefore, if anyone would like a copy please PM your email details to me.

Curl's article covers issues and topics including:

1. Decisions made by the Royal Artillery War Commemoration Fund Committee - having regard, in part, to the Suggestions for the Treatment of War Memorials drawn up by the Royal Academy of Arts.

2. The form the memorial should take - simple, dignified and regimentally appropriate.

3. Location of the memorial - "the best site available in London" - the Westminster City Council and the Office of Works putting forward several sites in the Mall, in Buckingham Palace Gardens and at Hyde Park Corner.

4. Eventual selection of Hyde Park Corner as the preferred site (following support from Sir Aston Webb and Sir Edwin Lutyens).

5. Choice of sculptor and architect. Consideration of submissions received from Adrian Jones (sculptor of the Boer War Cavalry Memorial); Lutyens (three sketches); and Sir Herbert Baker.

6. Approach made to Jagger, "one of the younger men", to do "a realistic thing". The work was not to exceed 25,000 pounds and the design was to consist of a sculptured group in bronze on a suitable pedestal, such as would be unmistakably recognised as an Artillery Memorial to any gunner or layman of ordinary intelligence.

7. Jagger's partnership with the architect Lionel Pearson. Together they prepared a model of their scheme which was approved in July 1921 by the Office of Works and the King (as Ranger of the Royal Parklands).

8. Jagger's explanation of the design - "distinctive of Artillery and of the period"; not representative of any other time than 1914-18. A memorial to the men who died in battle and on service.

9. Jagger's decision to use the howitzer - he respected the Artillery for their "terrific power", the "last word in force." The howitzer, being the only gun that could be treated in sculpture to represent these attributes.

10. Redesign of the scheme and approval in May 1923.

11. Re-orientation of the howitzer to a southern direction following objection by the Fine Arts Commission - to create a more serene and balanced silhouette and mass in relation to the falling ground!

12. Criticism and eventual decision to use the dead soldier.

13. Eventual unveiling of the memorial on 18 October 1925.

It is worth mentioning Curl's summary of the memorial:

The Royal Artillery Memorial is exactly right, for it is crowned by a mighty gun, familiar to all artillerymen; it is free from sentimentality; its reliefs have the vigour yet the control of an Assyrian hunt or a Hellenistic battle scene; like many of the most successful monuments of history it has elements of a pyramidal composition; and the sublime, serene, and wonderfully balanced composition suggests might, terror, sacrifice, resignation, and homage. This is no "toad of foolish stone": it is a work of the highest quality and distinction. (p.98)

Chris

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Bruce and others

I can shed some more light on the questions you raise by drawing on a article by James Stevens Curl published in the book called Charles Sargeant Jagger: War and Peace Scultpure. This book was edited by Ann Compton who wrote The Sculpture of Charles Sargeant Jagger (Sept. 2004). I have made a PDF copy of Curl's article, which runs to nineteen pages. I'm not sure whether I can attach this file to a post. Therefore, if anyone would like a copy please PM your email details to me.

Chris

Yes please Chris, I would be grateful. See your PMs for my email. The Ann Compton book is the one I attempted to get from the local libraries.

Isn't this forum wonderful?

Happy New Year to all, and thanks again.

Bruce

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Chris, I have received the PDF file and it is exactly what I was looking for.

Many thanks,

Bruce

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I owned a book in the 1950's (London Explorer by Peter Jackson, 1953) which suggested that the orientation of the howitzer was such that if it was real and could be fired, the shell would land on the Somme.

There is a very interesting recent memorial to the Australian forces of WW1 close by. The names of all the home towns and villages of the troops are carved on a curved wall. Some of the lettering is in "bold" and these letters spell out the names of the major battles.

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Still looking for the programme and the newspaper article - one room to go and four down.

Hope to be able to post it tomorrow or Friday latest.

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Just as a by-the-by if delving into the NA files, go for the Ministry of Works files around WW2 as when we did some work on Boy David over the other side of HPC, we found a wealth of stuff relating to its origins and treatment during WW2 in files from dates you wouldn't necessarily make the connection to.

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Just as a by-the-by if delving into the NA files, go for the Ministry of Works files around WW2 as when we did some work on Boy David over the other side of HPC, we found a wealth of stuff relating to its origins and treatment during WW2 in files from dates you wouldn't necessarily make the connection to.

Good tip, thanks.

Bruce

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Just spent an hour typing in the Order of Ceremony for the unveiling of the memorial and lost it when the system logged me out!

Will try and post something else when I have stopped spitting feathers!

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If anybody wants a photocopy of the order of service for the unveiling of the memorial

and/or copies of the 3 newspaper cuttings (names of newspapers unknown) then send me

a pm with your address and I will send them by snail mail.

Shortest newspaper, 19th October 1925, extract as follows :

It is particularly appropriate that the memorial to the 50,000 officers and men of the

Roya Regiment of Artillery, which the Duke of Connaught unveiled at Hyde Park Corner

yesterday, should be the work of an ex-officer of infantry, Mr. Charles Sargeant Jagger.

Thousands will share with him undying memories of "the Guns" and of the deadly marksmanship

of the men who served them with such cool courage and skill; the systematic destruction

of enemy positions, the shattering of wave after wave of attack, the merciless barrage

behind which our men could advance, if not in security, at least with the comforting

assurance of powerful support.

If there be a glamour about modern warfare it is not for the gunner; he is denied the the heroism of the mad scramble over the bullet-swept fields, the hand to hand fight and the flush of victory.For him there is the searching shell of the hostile battery, the bomb and bullet of the airman swooping unceasingly overhead.

True to the traditions of the Royal Regiment, when the gunner left his gun he was on a stretcher;

too often he never left it, his body remaining to justify the inscription on the memorial

"Here was royal fellowship of death."

Edited by squirrel
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If anybody wants a photocopy of the order of service for the unveiling of the memorial

and/or copies of the 3 newspaper cuttings (names of newspapers unknown) then send me

a pm with your address and I will send them by snail mail.

Shortest newspaper, 19th October 1925, extract as follows :

It is particularly appropriate that the memorial to the 50,000 officers and men of the

Roya Regiment of Artillery, which the Duke of Connaught unveiled at Hyde Park Corner

yesterday, should be the work of an ex-officer of infantry, Mr. Charles Sargeant Jagger.

Thousands will share with him undying memories of "the Guns" and of the deadly marksmanship

of the men who served them with such cool courage and skill; the systematic destruction

of enemy positions, the shattering of wave after wave of attack, the merciless barrage

behind which our men could advance, if not in security, at least with the comforting

assurance of powerful support.

If there be a glamour about modern warfare it is not for the gunner; he is denied the the heroism of the mad scramble over the bullet-swept fields, the hand to hand fight and the flush of victory.For him there is the searching shell of the hostile battery, the bomb and bullet of the airman swooping unceasingly overhead.

True to the traditions of the Royal Regiment, when the gunner left his gun he was on a stretcher;

too often he never left it, his body remaining to justify the inscription on the memorial

"Here was royal fellowship of death."

Tony, the copies arrived this morning. The newspaper account of the unveiling of the memorial was very moving, and I expect even more so for you considering your family connection with events on that day.

A note is on it’s way to you via snail mail.

Thank you very much.

Bruce

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You are more than welcome Bruce.

I find the style of writing and the whole organisation of the ceremony absolutely fascinating; a glimpse in to the attitudes and "feeling" of those times.

Tony

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