With all the excitement concerning the art installation of the ceramic poppies at the Tower of London now past, I decided to go on a little pilgrimage of my own to see other ‘installations’ commemorating the First World War.
I have witnessed the development of the poppy installation almost from day one on my frequent visits to the Tower, but the most poignant moment for me was one day in early November when I witnessed a photo-shoot of a lone bugler from one of the Guards regiments, posing amid the sea of red. He was wearing his grey greatcoat over his scarlet tunic, which did not detract from the red field.
My pilgrimage began in mid November with my childhood home district of Battersea and its Park. I remembered seeing a monument as a child that was different to the usual commemorative sculptures. Even then to me it appeared very modern. Despite my art history background, I was unable to identify the work from memory. Above is a picture of the sculpture by Eric Kennington called Memorial to the 24th London Division, executed in 1924. The Division saw action at the Battles of the Somme and Ypres Salient with in excess of 35,000 casualties. The sculpture depicts three brothers in arms holding hands, and around their feet a serpent is coiled suggesting both the comradeship of the men and the cramped claustrophobic conditions of the trenches.
Kennington had served in the trenches prior to being wounded only to return later as a war artist. His paintings are among the most poignant of the conflict and much of his work can be seen at the Imperial War Museum in London.