Great Western Railway war memorial

On Platform One of Paddington station is the bronze figure of a British ‘Tommy’ in France reading a letter from the folks back home in Blighty (Fig. 5). With helmet back-tilted, casually draped greatcoat and long woollen scarf, obviously knitted by a loved one, at first glance he is not a heroic figure: yet in a subtle way he is. Unlike much modern art, which has a tendency to be self-regarding, it immediately touches the emotions of Everyman. Originally intended to commemorate employees of the Great Western Railway (GWR) who perished in the First World War, it dates from 1922. Now it commemorates the 3,312 men and women of the GWR who died in two World Wars.

Fig. 5 – Great Western Railway memorial, Platform 1, Paddington station, London.

The artist was Charles Sargeant Jagger (1885-1934). He was only too familiar with the face of battle, having joined the Artists’ Rifles in 1914 and served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front in France: wounded three times, he was awarded the Military Cross.