Friday, 5 June 2015

A Year in Pictures – 31 May and 1 June 2015 – The Going Down of the Sun

Two churches and two monuments…

A collection of military memorials lines the walls of St Paul Hounslow West as the church—built in the 1870s when the British Empire was moving towards the high point of its reach, power and influence—is close to Hounslow Barracks. Some of the stained-glass windows show saints from the first thousand years (or so) of the Common Era, such as St George or St Olave, styled as moustachioed Victorian gentlemen costumed as if for some pageant or tableau vivant.

The most colourful of these memorials, part of which is seen here, records the death of one individual whereas all the others, commemorating military actions in various places of the Empire, are resolutely drab in colour, although though some are embellished with relief carvings of regimental badges or weapons and, in one case, a military drum. The individual memorialised, a senior army officer, died in Jubbulpore, one of the four British  administrative divisions of the Central Provinces of India (hence that 'C.P.' visible in the inscription), which is now part of the modern Indian province of Madhya Pradesh.

Death arrived, not apparently in military action, but "suddenly" and in the relative peace of 1910. The monument was provided by his grieving comrades.

Within four years the world was visited by a catastrophe of mass slaughter beyond the most deranged imagination. In 1914 World War I, the Great War, erupted from the tangled web of national alliances in Europe set against one another following the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. The conflict churned on for four weary years and involved the grandparents of my generation, all of whom have now finally passed into history.

What you see below is the newest monument in St Olave Hart Street in the City of London.  It was commissioned in 2014, the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, by The Worshipful Company of Clothworkers to commemorate their dead in the two world wars of the 20th century and names in particular their liverymen who did not survive the conflicts.

The 1914–18 War catalysed huge changes in British society and 21 years after the guns fell silent the nations of the world were once again at each other's throats, with refinements in killing technologies allied to bad science leading to particular atrocities in Europe and the war in the Far East finally ending with the unleashing of nuclear weapons. By 1945 the seeds of dissolution of the British Empire had not only germinated but were taking firm root, so that it was only a matter of time before the sun set on political and economic arrangements that must, at least back in 1910, have seemed unassailably secure.

The tablet is of Welsh slate and will shortly be fitted with a stained oak frame.
The lettering and coat of arms are by Lucy Haugh,
while the installation is by Colin Bowles Ltd.
The photograph was taken on 1 June 2015 and the tablet still shows the marks left by the installers' hands as they manoeuvred it into position. I have left the handprints in the image
as evidence of the physical effort of installation.

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