Earlier today, Remembrance Sunday and a rare sunny day after many grey ones, I walked to Westminster Abbey, to take photos of the commemorations outside the Abbey of our war dead:
As every year around this time, Britain remembers its war dead with smal wooden crosses, almost all with a poppy attached, and a small written message, of a name or a note of remembrance.
Not surprisingly, given how many died, there are a lot of crosses:
Some of the messages said that every one of the dead was a “hero”. Maybe. But there can be no doubting that these men, with “VC” after their names, definitely were, whatever you may think of the wars they were fighting:
As was this man:
There are not many individual commemorations of this sort, with a personal photo. More common were clutches of crosses, with the bigger lettering used only for the names of the regiments of the men commemorated.
I liked this regimental sign, embodying what tanks looked like on the very first occasions when they took to the battlefield:
And once I started noticing in particular these regimental signs, I particularly noticed this one:
Artists’ Rifles? Artists?
Yes, apparently these men were, to begin with anyway, painters who chose to swap their paintbrushes for rifles and their tubes of paint for bullets:
The first ‘Captain’ of the Regiment to be elected was Lord Bury (later the Earl of Albemarle) but he did not remain in office for very long. The first Commanding Officer in 1860 was Henry Wyndham Phillips, the painter and amongst the early distinguished ‘Artists’ were John Everett Millais, G F Watts, Val Prinsep, Frederick Leighton (later Lord Leighton, CO after Henry Wyndham Phillips and a future President of the Royal Academy), R W Edis (a future CO), Holman Hunt and William Morris.
However, the artistic influence somewhat declined:
The influence of the Pre-Raphaelite group, however, appears to have been more social than military! As years went by the composition of the Regiment was broadened to include many other professions. By 1893, for example, painters and sculptors represented less than 5 per cent. of the membership with architects 12 per cent., lawyers 12 per cent., doctors 10 per cent. and civil engineers 6 per cent.
Blog and learn.
Imagine that happening now.