Wednesday, November 11, 2020

this day 100 years ago ! ~ unveiling of Cenotaph for unknown warrior

This morning’s (11.11.2020)  ‘eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month’ will mark exactly 100 years since King George V unveiled  a new national memorial to the 'Glorious Dead' of the 1914-1918 war aka First World War. 

In UK, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were among a slimmed-down congregation at Westminster Abbey this morning to mark the burial of the Unknown Warrior on Armistice Day 100 years ago today. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer were among those who joined the Prince of Wales in the Abbey as the country fell silent at 11am to pay their respects to Britain's war dead.   Armistice Day is commemorated every year on 11 November to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France.  A formal peace agreement was only reached when the Treaty of Versailles was signed.

City of Chennai has lots of vestiges of colonial British – the Georgetown, the statues of Victoria, King George V and some roads with names :  Whites, Oliver, Patullos, Blackers, Wallers, Ormes, Barnaby, Baker, Adam, Coat, Greames, Strahans, Sterling, Taylor, Wheetcraft, Mowbrays, Montieth and more .. Triplicane had Pycrofts road (later renamed as Bharathiyar Salai) and Besant Road (after Annie Besant statue) ~ have you observed or travelled in that road branching off Mount Road, called Cenotaph Road. The word "cenotaph" derives from the Greek term "kenotaphion". Cenotaphs were common in Ancient Greece, where they were built when it was impossible to recover a body after the battle, as the Greeks placed great cultural importance on the proper burial of their war dead. A decision had been made early in the First World War that the British dead would not be repatriated, and would be buried close to where they fell. Lutyens remembered the term when working on Southampton's memorial in early 1919, where he proposed a cenotaph after his first design was rejected on cost grounds.

Miles away, the monument spoken off in the starting para is ‘the Cenotaph’, a  war memorial on Whitehall in London, England. Its origin is in a temporary structure erected for a peace parade following the end of the First World War, and after an outpouring of national sentiment it was replaced in 1920 by a permanent structure and designated the United Kingdom's official national war memorial.


Designed by Edwin Lutyens, the permanent structure was built from Portland stone between 1919 and 1920 by Holland, Hannen & Cubitts, replacing Lutyens's earlier wood-and-plaster cenotaph in the same location. An annual Service of Remembrance is held at the site on Remembrance Sunday, the closest Sunday to 11 November (Armistice Day) each year. Lutyens's cenotaph design has been reproduced elsewhere in the UK and in other places of historical British allegiance including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Bermuda and Hong Kong.

The First World War (1914–1918) produced casualties on a previously unseen scale. Over 1.1 million men from the British Empire were killed. In its aftermath, thousands of war memorials were built across Britain and the Empire, and on the former battlefields. Amongst the most prominent designers of war memorials was Sir Edwin Lutyens, described by Historic England as "the foremost architect of his day". Lutyens established his reputation designing country houses for wealthy clients around the turn of the 20th century and became a public figure as the designer of much of New Delhi, the new capital of British India. The war had a profound effect on Lutyens and following it he devoted much of his time to the commemoration of casualties. By the time he was commissioned for the cenotaph, he was already acting as an adviser to the Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC).

Lutyens's first war memorial was the Rand Regiments Memorial in Johannesburg, South Africa, dedicated to casualties of the Second Boer War (1899–1902). His first commission for a memorial to the First World War came from Southampton. Lutyens first encountered the term in connection with Munstead Wood, the house he designed for Gertrude Jekyll in the 1890s.   Lutyens submitted his final design to the Office of Works in early July, and on 7 July received confirmation that the design had been approved by the foreign secretary, Lord Curzon, who was chairman of the committee responsible for organising the victory celebrations.  The unveiling, described in The Times as a "quiet" and "unofficial" ceremony, took place on 18 July 1919, the day before the Victory Parade. Lutyens was not invited. During the parade, 15,000 soldiers and 1,500 officers marched past and saluted the Cenotaph—among them were American General John J. Pershing and French Marshal Ferdinand Foch, as well as the British officers Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig and Admiral of the Fleet Sir David Beatty. The Cenotaph quickly captured the public imagination. Repatriation of the dead had been forbidden since the early days of the war, so the cenotaph came to represent the absent dead and served as a substitute for a tomb.  

The architects waived their fee for designing the cenotaph, meaning that it cost £7,325 (equivalent to £296,400 in 2019) to build. Construction began on 19 January 1920, and the original flags were sent to the Imperial War Museum. No date was announced for the completion of the Cenotaph at first, but the government were keen to have it completed in time for Remembrance Day (11 November). In September 1920, the announcement came that the Cenotaph would indeed be unveiled on 11 November, the second anniversary of the Armistice, and that the act would be performed by the king. At a late stage in the planning, the Government decided to hold a funeral for an unidentified soldier exhumed from a grave in France, known as the Unknown Warrior, and inter him in Westminster Abbey, and the decision was taken to make the unveiling part of the funeral procession. George V unveiled the Cenotaph at 11 am on 11 November, this time with Lutyens in attendance.   The public response to the newly unveiled memorial exceeded even that to the temporary Cenotaph in the aftermath of the armistice. Whitehall was closed to traffic for several days after the ceremony and members of the public began to file past the Cenotaph and lay flowers at its base.  Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, it was customary for men to doff their hats when passing the Cenotaph.

Cenotaph Road is also the name of a science fiction series by American writer Robert E. Vardeman.  

When news of the Treaty of Seringapatam and Tipu Sultan’s defeat reached Madras, the European residents organised a fund-raising campaign to erect a statue for Cornwallis. Thomas Banks, a famous sculptor, was entrusted with the job; the statue arrived in Madras, and was erected on May 15, 1800, under a cupola on the Eastern side of parade ground inside the fort. The ground was named Cornwallis Square. In 1805, Cornwallis visited Madras on his way to Calcutta to take charge of Governor-Generalship for the second time on May 6. A cenotaph was erected in Teynampet, and this road was named Cenotaph Road. Later, the cenotaph was moved to the compound of Bentinck’s Building, then the Supreme Court of Madras, on First Line Beach Road. Bentinck’s Building was demolished in 1980. In 1925, the statue was moved out of Cornwallis Square to the cenotaph. It stood there for three years. In 1928, dust from the harbour and the salt breeze forced it to be moved to Connemara Library. Till 1950, Cornwallis stood at library and then moved to Fort Museum.  

Interesting ! 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
11.11.2020 @ 11pm. 

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