WAR MEMORIALS: As the world attempted to come to terms with the loss of loved ones during the war, the need for a focal point of national mourning became apparent. This was noticed and in London a temporary structure made of wood and plaster designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, in the form of a cenotaph stood.
The cenotaph attracted more than a million people, who left behind 100,000 wreaths over a period of four days. The year later the temporary cenotaph was replaced with a permanent structure made from Portland stone.
Experienced coinage artist John Bergdahl said “When I began working on this series I remember reading the inscription on the Cenotaph at Whitehall, ‘The glorious dead’. Looking back at these devastating battles you can’t help but feel that there is nothing glorious about war.”
“When I turned to the Armistice, I wanted to create something formal, and in the end I opted to show the Cenotaph itself. It is a formal, solemn piece of architecture that simply speaks for itself. When we think of remembrance, it is where our thoughts turn.”
IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUMS: The Imperial War Museum was founded on 5 March 1917 when the War Cabinet approved a proposal by Sir Alfred Mond MP for the creation of a national war museum to record the events still taking place during the Great War.
Today, the Imperial War Museum is a leading authority on conflict and its impact, focusing on Britain, its former Empire and the Commonwealth, from First World War to the present.
Military artist David Rowlands said, “The Imperial War Museum in London was set up before the end of the war, with the intention of collecting items from battlefields, among other things, like photographs and so on, so that the war could be experienced to a certain extent in a physical form.
“Most visitors to the museum would have been touched by the war – they would have lost friends and relatives, or had loved ones wounded in action – and this would give them a physical experience of what those close to them had been through. It struck me that this was the only way to do that in those days. There was no television, of course, and the men who returned spoke little of what they had endured. The Imperial War Museum in London for me was not just a museum, it was really trying to convey a message, and preserve memories.”
COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES: The history of the Commonwealth War Graves began in the First World War. The Imperial War Graves Commission was established to bury and commemorate the dead and the missing.
Sculptor David Cornell honours the Imperial War Grave commission with his design. David said, “My design shows the cross of sacrifice with the inverted sword which represents the faith of the majority of the dead. The cross is surrounded by graves of the unknown warriors of many different faiths and beliefs. I wanted the design to be emotive and portray the same feelings I get when I see the graves of so many thousands of unknown soldiers.”
POPPIES: The poppy became a symbol associated with remembrance of the First World War when it flourished in the soil churned up by artillery fire.
Artist Edwina Ellis said of her inspiration behind the design “Wild poppies and cornflowers germinate in disturbed soil and they are pioneers – the tragic metaphor of their burgeoning in the battlefields was not lost on fighting troops. These wildflowers can be seen in photographs of trenches and were often described, most memorably by Robert Graves.
“There were small trench gardens tended by troops, especially by Germans, and it is good to feel there is a symbol for all those fallen that does not dissemble. I wanted a real, wild poppy on the design to symbolise the exact poppies those fighting men saw, tended, or watched grow over their mates’ makeshift graves.”