|Publications : Chapters
In Graham. B. and Howard, P. (eds.)
The Ashgate Research Companion to Heritage and Identity (London:
Ashgate) p.323-347 (2008)
In the four weeks leading to 11th November 1928 the now defunct
illustrated newspaper Answers published a ‘magnificent series
of plates celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Armistice’.
Under the strapline ‘Ten years after, 1918 - 1928’ the
plates were published as four pairs of pencil drawings by the former
soldier-artist Adrian Hill. They depicted the principle buildings
on the old Western Front in Belgium and France as they appeared
in ruins in late 1918, and under restoration ten years later. Arras
Cathedral, the Cloth Hall at Ypres, Albert Basilica, and the Menin
Road had become icons across the British Empire as the immutable
symbols of the trauma of the Great War.
Indeed, in the months after the Armistice, Winston Churchill had
strongly advocated ‘freezing’ the remains of Ypres and
preserving it forever as an ossified commemoration of the war. Its
pulverised medieval buildings, he argued, would be more articulate
than any carved memorial or reverential monument. Churchill’s
predilection for bombed ruins surfaced again during the Second World
War when he argued that a portion of the blitzed House of Commons
ought also to be preserved as a reminder of the bombing of the capital.
(Hansard 25 January 1945)
As with many grand commemorative schemes, Churchill’s vision
was not to be realised. Indeed, after both wars many of the grander
commemorative schemes floundered: a national war memorial garden
in the precincts of St Paul’s Cathedral was abandoned as a
project in the late 1940’s; ambitious plans to house the national
war art collection in an imposing ‘Hall of Remembrance’
came to nothing twenty years earlier, as did a similar architectural
scheme in Canada.
Although, many ideas were realised, though few were achieved without
some degree of argument.
In this chapter I will examine how the desire to produce a common
understanding of the past has resulted in material forms such as
the plinth and the pedestal which have become the key visual components
of ideological and rhetorical urban topography, I want to contrast
them with the concept of ‘reified place’, in particular
preserved or reconstructed battlefields which have become the focus
of commemorative rites; the places where ‘one takes personal