Tag Archives: First World War Memorials

12 March 1915 – 2/39 Garhwal Rifles – Unit War Diary


LA COUTURE was reached by the last Company about 3.a.m., on the way back the Regiment had to march down a road which was being heavily shelled all night by the enemy, and 3 men of the Dogra Company were hit. The road was much congested with traffic, as the Sirhind Brigade were marching up it in one mass into the trenches to relieve the Dehra Dun Brigade. It was afterwards stated that some 300 casualties occurred on this road during the night from shell fire. On the way back the men collected as many of their great coats as they could find, which had been left in the 6th Jat trenches on the morning of the 10th previous to the attack.

The men had hardly settled down in LA COUTURE when orders were received to march early next morning to billets near L’ESTREM. Battalion marched at 7.30 a.m. and reached billets at CROIX MARMEUSE at 10.30 a.m after a long wait on the road for the billetting officer.

The march as necessarily a slow one as the men were much fatigued after their strenuous efforts of the last 3 days. Billets were much scattered here.

At 4.40 p.m. orders were received to march at once to RICHEBOURG St VAAST. the men were cooking at the time, and most of the food had to be thrown away and the Regiment fell in immediately and marched off. The march was very slow, and several men wanted to fall out owing to bad feet. In fact the feed of all the men were in a very bad way and the regiment was in no condition to do any more hard work till it had a day or two’s good rest and food. CROIX MARMEUSE was left about 5.45 p.m., and RICHEBOURG reached at 9.5 p.m. and on arrival their billets were allotted but proved difficult to find as there were so many troops in the village and no Staff Officer to show us till he was seen and fetched out. However sufficient rooms were eventually found and the men got what rest they could.

All ranks heard with the deepest regret this day that Major MacTier had been killed in action while commanding the 1/39th G, Vice Colonel Swiney, wounded.

The Unit War Diaries are held at the National Archives. Ted was Adjutant and often wrote them, but they are typed and it’s not possible to tell if he wrote them. In this case I wonder if Drake-Brockman wrote or dictated the diary.  Major “Mac” was a close friend of Ted’s.

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Posted by on 12 March, '15 in 39th Garhwal Rifles, Neuve Chapelle


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The significance of First World War Memorials in Britain

A guest post by Sol Solntze

First World War Memorial, Holborn, London

First World War Memorial, Holborn, London

In the UK, World War I memorials are all around us. They are so all around us, in fact, that it is easy to overlook them. I think that Micheal Gove certainly has, with his comments about how the emphasis on the tragedy of the First World War is a left wing conspiracy imposed on the narrative of the conflict by agenda driven historians long after the fact. On the centenary of the beginning of the World War I, perhaps it is time to think about what they can tell us about the attitudes the people who lived through the war and its aftermath had towards it.

Firstly, it is interesting to note that the Cenotaph wasn’t originally built to last. It was a temporary structure provided for the victory march to have something to salute at, the nod to those who didn’t come back intended to be just one part of the end of war celebrations. In actuality, however, it seems for the members of the public who attended the event, this acknowledgement of the glorious dead rather than of the glorious victory, of the anonymous unfortunate collective rather than the heroism of one or two great men was the highlight of the proceedings, and what kept them coming back to visit in large numbers after the parade was over. The temporary monument became permanent because of the reaction of people at the time to it.

The Cenotaph, London. <br/> By Adrian Pingstone (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Cenotaph, London.
By Adrian Pingstone (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It might be easy to pass this off as the natural result of the decision not to repatriate the bodies of those who fell abroad, which left the people at home needing something other than individual grave sites to focus their grief. But that’s the point. There were, the country clearly felt, so many people that needed to be mourned. This was considered to be the aspect of the war that needed to be remembered.

The subsequent explosion of memorial building all over the country was a grass roots movement conceived of, organised by and funded by the communities in which they were placed rather than by any central authority. There are the memorials which were linked to a civic administrative area, such as an urban borough or a village. There are memorials which remember those who belonged to a particular religious community. There are memorials which are dedicated to those who were attached to a particular school, workplace, or social activity. And there are memorials for those who fought in particular regiments or in particular battles.

There also seems, right from the beginning, to have been a deliberate avoidance of militaristic images. Again and again, figures of soldiers are depicted as standing at ease or in positions of mourning rather than marching or attacking with military purpose. An upturned gun was a particularly popular motif. The country was in no mood to glorify this war.

War Memorial, Down Ampney, Gloucestershire. <br/> © Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse

War Memorial, Down Ampney, Gloucestershire.
© Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse

But it is true that neither were they prepared to condemn it utterly. The dead themselves were very rarely portrayed directly, especially not in attitudes which bore any relation to death on the battlefield. In fact, the idealised forms of the figures of soldiers, along with an avoidance of the depiction of the realities of the fighting convey no sense of the horror of war. In addition, Christian symbolism, where it existed, showed the typical First World War soldier as a martyr, someone prepared to sacrifice himself for a just cause. Indeed, a new type of cross became widespread in expressing this idea, the Cross of Sacrifice – a cross with an upturned sword pointing downwards on its face, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield for the Imperial War Graves Commission.

This kind of thinking, and the idea, often expressed in unveiling speeches, that the sacrifices should not have been made in vain, meant that many of the memorials took a utilitarian form. They were intended to benefit the community in some way through the provision of charity to a section of community members (often war widows or children), or by providing or improving a local service or facility (projects ranged from a new ‘memorial’ hospital to a ‘memorial’ village hall to a ‘memorial’ park).

The "Sentry" War Memorial by Charles Sargeant Jagger, in Watts Warehouse, Manchester. Now the Britannia Hotel.  Cnbrb at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], from Wikimedia Commons

The “Sentry” War Memorial by Charles Sargeant Jagger, in Watts Warehouse, Manchester. Now the Britannia Hotel.
Cnbrb at the English language Wikipedia from Wikimedia Commons

Of course, the reality of the post-war depression for many people was clearly not one of experiencing ‘the land fit for heroes’ the dead had supposedly sacrificed themselves to create. In fact, the image and rhetoric surrounding the war memorials and commemoration ceremonies provided an impetus for increasing numbers of people to take a critical view of the war, war memorials, and the impact it had had. Memorials were often the focal point for protests.

Yet many aspects of the memorials actively militated against a critical perspective. There is certainly a nationalistic emphasis to them. This war (and this sacrifice) had been about fighting for ‘the King, Empire and God’. For example, the Celtic cross was a particularly popular type of cross to erect, whereas crucifixes were often seen as the preserve of foreign, Roman Catholic, influences and avoided. Images of St George, or from the Arthurian legend of the Grail quest, were also widely used.

Nowhere, however, is the traditional bent more evident than the way the two minutes silence was fiercely kept, even at the height of the dissatisfaction of the 1930s. Enforcement was organised both by those in positions of authority, such as the policemen who ensured that traffic stopped at the appropriate time, and by ordinary participants themselves. There are examples of dissenters being harassed, and even beaten for refusing to conform.

War Memorial, S & J Watts, Manchester, now the Britannia Hotel

War Memorial, S & J Watts, Manchester, now the Britannia Hotel

To be honest, it is hard not to draw the conclusion that the way in which the Armistice Day commemorations took on an increasingly reverential tone is because to allow people to diss the Armistice Day ceremonials would be to admit that the deaths of loved ones had been futile. And the mere fact that war memorials were so widespread, so energetically pursued and the form which they should take often so fought over has a flavour of a nation protesting this point a little too strongly for it not to have been a subconscious niggle at the very least.
But whether you accept this or not, you cannot ignore the point that the deaths of those who took part in World War I were what contemporaries were most interested in remembering about it. That is what the British First World War memorials tell us.

Sol Solntze is a former history graduate who has a tendency to lecture her children on such fascinating topics as the history of agriculture given any provocation whatsoever. She blogs at

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Posted by on 28 June, '14 in About, WWI


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