First Ypres 1914: The graveyard of the Old Contemptibles by David Lomas

By David Lomas

Osprey's evaluation of the 1st conflict of Ypres of worldwide struggle I (1914-1918). within the autumn of 1914 the unique British Expeditionary strength confronted a seriously bolstered German force. box Marshal Sir John French, the British Commander-in-Chief, had despatched his males north in an try and take the struggle into Flanders, in order that they may well struggle throughout open floor. background tells us that this used to be to not be the case. David Lomas chronicles the 1st of the trench-warfare battles, the place strains that may stay nearly static for the remainder of the battle have been demonstrated. even supposing the Germans didn't succeed in the channel ports, the dying knell had rung for the BEF, which was once nearly burnt up during this courageous defence.

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Whether he had ability as a tactician was another matter. ‘The successful generals of the First World War, those who did not crack outright or decline gradually into pessimism, were a hard lot,’ John Keegan has written, ‘as they had to be with the casualty figures accumulating on their desks. indb 23 12/2/07 14:29:17 4. Looking up into the principal vaults at Thiepval, where the coffering is adapted from the ancient Buddhist stupa at Sanchi in India, a motif which Lutyens had already used on Viceroy’s House in New Delhi.

Eventually, the government acceded to what Lutyens called ‘the human sentiment of millions’ and allowed the Cenotaph to be replicated permanently in stone the following year. The Cenotaph speaks through pure form and deep cultural resonances. This slim pylon, which makes no attempt to compete with the height of the surrounding government buildings, somehow managed to express the inarticulate grief of a wounded, damaged society. As, later, at Thiepval, Lutyens knew better than to resort to tendentious symbolism, whether religious, or national or military.

Now the recumbent effigy was replaced by a symbolic coffin or sarcophagus on top of a tall pylon to be erected in the middle of Whitehall. indb 40 12/2/07 14:29:19 6. ‘The people’s shrine’: the permanent Cenotaph in Whitehall after its unveiling on Armistice Day in 1920, piled high with wreaths and flowers left by those who mourned the dead. indb 41 12/2/07 14:29:19 wood and plaster in a matter of days. And then, the generals and politicians and soldiers having marched past, something unexpected happened: the temporary structure became sacred, ‘the people’s shrine’.

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