The amount of new statuary appearing in London is sometimes hard to keep up with. Not all of it is immediately welcome. Mahatma’s statue, only unveiled this March, was a loved addition to the other figures adorning Parliament square, although if statues could speak, commendatore-style, nearby Churchill might have a word or two to say to one he termed a half-naked fakir.
The animals killed in war service memorial in nearby Park lane is another poignant addition to London’s statuary. The inscription reads “they had no choice.”
When at Hyde park corner the other day I noticed a Grecian white arcade, almost re-evocative of Decimus Burton’s screen on the other side of the huge roundabout in this part of London. We decided to inspect. It turned out to be a memorial commemorating a major war activity almost seventy years ago, and the subject of much debate ever since.
I could not visit places like Dresden in 2001 without a certain embarrassment, indeed shame, at the overkill aspect of the situation. A friend’s fiction book, “A cold unhurried hand”, and my discussions with him helped me re-assess my doubts. Michael David Anthony, sadly no longer with us since 2003, reminded me that over 55,000 bomber crew lost their lives in ww2 and that their effort were as important as the few to whom so many of us their lives of freedom and democracy. It’s crazy to think that 44% of all bomber crews were killed in action.
I was completely impressed by the very overdue memorial to bomber command and found the group, representing a typical bomber crew landing after a mission, cast using metal from a Halifax bomber, truly riveting. The detail on this group, by sculptor Philip Jackson, was fascinating. Even more were the tired expressions, the stance of the figures, their youth, their determination to do an unpleasant job, quite overwhelming.
I hasten to add that the memorial not only commemorates all Europeans taking part in the raids, including Poles, but also civilians killed in them.
I place this monument to the still controversial bomber command (it was vandalised by an Islamic sect in 2013) as one of the most awesome pieces of war sculpture in London.
My only hope is that we won’t have to continually add to this sad phenomenon of our human psyche. Hyde park corner is already loaded with monuments to mankind’s supreme folly and the millions of lives it has lost and continues loosing.
Just to add to few more there’s the Royal artillery memorial, the Australian memorial, the one for new Zealand armed forces, the machine gun corps….
And if you think the nearby statue to Byron is an exception to all this war devastation think again – after leaving our bagni Di Lucca where he stayed at the villa Webb he died for the liberation of Greece…