Tuesday 17 May 2016

Cook Memorial, The Mall SW1

Captain Cook is one of my all-time heroes, possibly the greatest navigator who ever lived.
This 1910 statue is by Sir Thomas Brock. It retains a naval setting, standing in front of the Admiralty extension of the 1890s with its wireless telegraphy aerials preserved from the days of the Dreadnoughts. Cook would have known their predessor, the giant semaphore tower that clicked and clacked its messages for transmission down a chain to the fleet at Portsmouth.

Friday 6 May 2016

Royal Marines Memorial, The Mall, SW1

This noble figure of a Marine standing guard over a fallen comrade was created by Adrian Jones in 1903 to commemorate the fallen of the South African wars and the Boxer Rebellion in China.
The sculptor was self-taught, taking up sculpture after serving as an Army vetinerary officer, facts which help explain the unconventional but moving composition and the correct military detail.
The plinth was designed by the architect Sir Thomas G Jackson, and incorporates two bronze reliefs by Jones depicting on the left the Battle of Graspan in the Boer War and on the right the defence of the International Legations in the Boxer Rebellion.
Though a victory, the Battle of Graspan was not exactly a glittering example of British military prowess. General Lord Methuen completely failed to understand the threat posed by long range rifle fire, enabling the undisciplined but hotshot Afrikaaner farmers to create havoc from their hilltop positions.
The main British advantage was in artillery, famously including two long naval 12 pounders taken from HMS Doris and mounted on improvised carriages - dramatically depicted in Jones's relief, shelling the Boers as the Marines storm up the hill.
In 1900 a millennial cult of unspeakable ferocity, violently zenophobic and anti-Christian, called the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists but better known today by the name given them by Western diplomats, the Boxers, attacked Peking and laid siege to the quarter that housed the foreign embassies. 
Jones's relief shows Royal Marines scaling the Legation wall to storm a Boxer rampart, causing the Chinese to throw down their Mausers and run. To the right, a Boxer is being bayoneted in a scene that shows Jones was not afraid to portray the horror of war in a way that is unusually frank for a war memorial.
The memorial was originally placed over the road, being removed for the construction of the Citadel during WWII. It was re-erected in its present position in 1948 and dedicated as the national Marines monument in 2000.