Royal Artillery memorial

Of all memorials to the dead of the First World War, I find this the most impressive (Fig. 7). Again the artist was Jagger. This masterwork in Portland stone and waxed bronze (1921-5) stands a few paces away from Wood’s ‘Boy David’ statue. When unveiled the memorial received a mixed reception but over the years it has gained in prestige. Its purpose is to commemorate the 49,076 men of the Royal Regiment of Artillery who died in the Great War. Crowned with a life-size stone howitzer gun, the sheer bulk and weight of the monument convey the terrible power of artillery. Lower down are bas-relief images in stone showing scenes of frenzied battle activity. However, it is the four bronze figures in front of its four faces that rivet the attention. Each of these still figures skillfully manages to evoke both humanity and heroism. Slightly oversize, they represent an officer, a shell carrier, a driver (Fig. 8) and a dead artilleryman (Fig. 9). Beneath the prone figure of the latter an inscription reads ‘Here was a Royal Fellowship of Death’: it appears to be the custom for passersby to place a small flower or red paper poppy at its fingertips.7

Fig. 7 – Royal Artillery memorial, Hyde Park Corner, London.

Fig. 8 – Statue of driver, Royal Artillery memorial.

Fig. 9 – Figure of dead artilleryman, Royal Artillery memorial.

  1. For a discussion of the symbolism of the blood-red Flanders poppy, which is central to British memories of the Great War, see Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 1975) ISBN 0195019180 []