Phase 2: The Will to Remember (1921-1928)

Within a couple of years, more graphic memorials were being built. Memories of the war were recollected, re-imagined and projected in stone. What had been seen in war was re-created and projected onto forms that could be gazed upon, so that the past events could come to be accepted without overwhelming feelings of pain and loss. This was the second phase of conscious mourning.

Portsmouth War Memorial, C Sergeant Jagger. © RO’C

Here, C Sergeant Jagger presents the people of the city with an image of the singular weapon which more than anything else did so much to bring about their loss. If they walk around the apprehensive soldier, they can imagine various perspectives: stand behind and they will feel his apprehension and his power of death over others; stand in front and they will face the fear of walking into raking machine-gun fire; stand to one side and they will be able to ask themselves questions that refuse to go away – Where did it happen? When? For how long? Who is that soldier? Who sent him there? What for? Why?

Jagger, who had served on the front, also did more graphic work, in particular for the artillery memorial at Hyde Park Corner. The booming of the heavy guns at Passchendaele, such as this 9.2in howitzer, could be heard in London, a hundred miles away, as ‘softening up’ for the battle in the late summer of 1917 progressed.

CS Jagger and Lionel Pearson, Royal Artillery Monument,
Hyde Park Corner, 1921-25. © RO’C

Given the time it took for the sound to travel, by the time Londoners heard the report, young men, some of them friends, relatives, sons, were dying, some pulverised so there were few remains. The space between event and report was a space for the imagination, where those at home felt the fear of the men at second hand. Here, Jagger brings home the origin of those sounds, the author of the reports, for it to be gazed upon.

Jagger, Artillery Memorial, Hyde Park Corner. © RO’C

Around the base of the artillery monument, the experience of soldiers fighting on the front is realistically represented. It says: this is what happened to us. Look at it. This is the story of what happened. Like a wake, it tells the story of one who has died. But the story can be told only by one who survived, as Jagger himself had done. The dead have been left behind. In projecting the memory he finds form for it and comes to terms with it, he finds a terminology for it, a terminal-logos. For himself, he re-locates a memory associated with unbearable pain outside of himself. This is the purpose of telling the story. He makes memory bearable by unbearing it from himself and making it the object of his gaze.

He lightens what he must bear by knowing also that the memory becomes the object of other people’s gazing, and so the pain for one is dissipated by being shared by another who gazes upon the image of the memory that soaks up so much of his mental energy. He is telling the story not for others, but for himself. Others’ knowing of what causes him pain lessens his pain because it leaves him less isolated in his memories. They see his memories too now. Their distance from him is decreased through the agency of the projected form. By bringing home to them what he went through he weakens his destructive sense of bilocation.