Thursday, 8 September 2016

Unveiling Bootle War Memorial

photo by K Hodgson
On an extremely wet Saturday morning a large crowd came and stayed for over an hour for the rededicating of the restored Bootle War Memorial.

The work had been founded by a variety of sources including a large donation from the War Memorial Trust . This is one of the biggest grants made by the Trust.

Despite the rain everyone listened attentively as the memorial was dedicated. The ceremony was a recreation of the one carried out in 1922 with the laying of wreaths
I concluded the event by repeating the pledge made back then by the then Mayor that the council would look after the memorial. The vicar of Christchurch Bootle blessed the memorial and we sang familiar hymns including all seven verses of Abide with Me. (Who knew Abide with Me had seven verses? Well one older member of the gathering impressively sang all the verses from memory!). We were to accompanied by the Formby Band  
phot by K Hodgson

The order of service for the rededication describes the monument thus:

The design of the memorial is based on a suggestion from the War Memorial Committee that all three services should form an important part of the design and that the names of the fallen heroes should be recorded. The overall form and configuration of the memorial was proposed by Hubert Ernest Bulmer, ARCA (1874-1963), who was the County Borough of Bootle's Art Director and had previously been head of the Bootle School of Art (which was a predecessor to the Hugh Baird College of today).
a representative of the War Memorial Trust

The memorial is constructed from Forest of Dean sandstone and comprises a twelve-sided base on two circular steps, which have bronze panels with the names of those remembered inscribed between pilasters. Above this base is a triangular, concave-sided obelisk that supports a bronze depiction of a mother and child. Flanking the obelisk on three sides are figures of an infantry soldier, a sailor and an airman. The total height of the memorial is 20 feet.

The memorial sits within a wide paved landing and is surrounded by an outer ring comprising a dwarf wall with coping stones beyond which the landscaped setting includes a perimeter privet hedge and lawns.

There are 12 bronze plaques upon which are the names of 1007 Bootle men killed in the First World War. The bronze sculpture depicts a soldier, sailor and an airman, three laurel wreaths and a stature of a mother holding a baby.
The bronze sculptures are by Joseph Hermon Cawthra, RBS (1886-1971) and were cast by Mario Manenti (1885-1954), a bronze founder and an artist who ran a foundry at 416 Fulham Road, London between 1921 and 1928.

The inclusion of an airman is very unusual for a First World War memorial as air warfare was still very new and only a few war memorials of this age include an airman. He stands on the east side of the memorial and is looking up to the sky. The sailor and soldier figures are shown guarding a mother and child figure which symbolises new life and hope.

The sculptor Cawthra's later career was largely based on his reputation following Bootle War Memorial. Before they were installed on the memorial, his bronze figures were exhibited at the 1922 Royal Academy and received admiring comments with positive reviews recorded in contemporary accounts at the time. Critics praised the realism of the Tine colossal bronzes' with one critic praising the 'virility' of the airman figure and writing 'it is indeed a tonic to see these rugged warriors in place of the usual classical nymphs'. Later, Cawthra described the airman figure as one of his best works.
Construction work began in May 1922 and the completed memorial was unveiled on the 15th October of that year. The contractor was Harry Clegg from Chester.

The Bootle Times printed a very detailed account of the official unveiling ceremony which took place where we are now stood on 15th October 1922 and according to the article, 'this was attended by tens of thousands of onlookers and in glorious sunshine.

In 1948 permission was granted by the Council for the addition to the memorial of the names of servicemen killed in the Second World War. This consisted of alterations to the entrance steps to incorporate two additional bronze plaques and the addition of further names to the original stone boundary plinth. They also added a stone tablet commemorating the Liverpool Escort Force which protected the vast convoys of merchant ships which brought food and materials to this country via the docks, upon which so many people in Bootle depended.

Since the Second World War further names from subsequent conflicts, have been added, with the most recent being added earlier this year.

This Memorial is still very much a monument to the people who gave their lives, including those from our own generation and they will always be remembered.

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