|Royal Artillery Memorial - Hyde Park Corner - London|
This was at the beginning of December, and therefore poppy wreathes still lay at the feet of the four soldiers who are positioned like sentinels around the massive memorial block of Portland stone. This itself bears sculpted reliefs showing uncompromising scenes of conflict. These were in line with the sculptor's intention to depict the events of war which would not shy away from its brutal reality and could in no way be taken as a symbol of Peace. Charles Sargeant Jagger (1885-1934) was commissioned to carry out the work to commemorate the fallen Royal Artillery servicemen in 1922, and he duly stated that “experience in the trenches persuaded me of the necessity for frankness and truth”. The result attests to this, but its refusal to present anything that could comfort or reassure the public of the nature of 'the Great War to end all wars' drew mixed reactions from the public and press alike. The spectre of Death, symbolized in the form of the fallen artilleryman, lain out and shrouded by his trench cape, was perceived as "a terrible revelation long overdue" (Manchester Guardian) but also as 'inappropriate' by other parties. Jagger was insistant that this figure be an integral part of the memorial, and refused to give in to disapproval.
|The fallen artillery man|
|The Artillery Lieutenant|
To the east stands the Shell Carrier, aptly named for huge cannister shells shored in the pockets of greatcoat. With feet firmly planted in heavy miltary boots he looks invincible, yet his sinewy arms look unprotected and the vulnerable veins on his clenched hands contrast the vein-like cords that hold the shells in place, ready to pulverise flesh on the 'other side'.
|The Shell Carrier|
The memorial is dedicated to the artillery men who died in service, and the names of the countries and regions where they fought are inscribed in its stone - France, Africa, Persia, Egypt, Central Asia, Palestine, Russia, Italy, India, Arabia, Mesopotamia, Macedonia, Dardanelles and Flanders.... Almost 50,000 men died.
Jagger's career only spanned 16 years, and war seems to have shaped much of those, directly or indirectly. Son of a colliery manager in a pit village near Rotherham, he became interested in sculpture as a young child, and later went on to study metal engraving, before attending the Royal College of Art in 1907. Although he won a prestigious scholarship to study in Rome in 1914 (Le Prix de Rome) he declined this and chose to serve King and Country in joining the Artists' Rifles. He was injured several times in service, was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry, yet survived the war years. Nevertheless, he never freed himself from war in the sense that his eventual career largely centred on depictions of the Great War in the numerous memorials for which he was commissioned. Jagger died of pneumonia at the age of 49, just a few years before the start of the Second World War....
|Paddington War Memorial - Jagger - photo by Cnbrb - English Wikipedia|