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Remembrance
Introduction
Cenotaph
Remembrance Day
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The Cenotaph.....................cont

'Crowds began to assemble at dawn, many theatres were closed on account of traffic congestion and no less that 1,500 officers and 15,000 other ranks had to camp under canvas to enable them to take part in that memorable ceremony'. [7] The temporary wood and plaster structure was unveiled on the morning of 19th July 1919. Later that day the parade was held. The troops of the victorious nations marched past the Cenotaph in solemn silence, led by the Allied commanders. It was saluted by them and the marching detachments. 'The King reviewed the parade from a temporary pavilion constructed for the purpose at Buckingham Palace, and an elaborate program of festivities and entertainments followed....The temporary Cenotaph was such a minor detail in the planning of the Peace Day Celebration and the winding down of the war effort that no one involved could have possibly imagined its becoming the official memorial. But it was the Cenotaph which had caught hold of the public's imagination. From then on, this understated and abstract monument became the symbol of England's grief'. [8] The parade was barely over, before the question of making the Cenotaph a permanent structure began to attract attention. The Times newspaper printed a letter signed "R.I.P." which stated: "The Cenotaph in Whitehall is so simple and dignified that it would be a pity to consider it merely as an ephemeral structure'. [9] The paper subsequently wrote: 'The new Cenotaph erected in Whitehall to the memory of 'the glorious dead' was the centre of what was perhaps the most moving portion of Saturday's triumphal ceremony. The Cenotaph… is only a temporary structure made to look like stone; but Sir Edwin Lutyens's design is so grave, severe and beautiful that one might well wish it were indeed of stone and permanent' [10]


Captain Ormsby-Gore MP raised the question of the conversion of the temporary structure into a permanent one in the House of Commons. At the same time, he and 23 other MPs signed a memorandum to Sir Alfred Mond requesting that a permanent memorial to the fallen of the Great War be erected on the site. The immediate and overwhelming public acclaim for Lutyens' hurriedly prepared design afforded them a ready solution to a potential problem. 'Time passed and the plain fact emerged and grew stronger every hour that the Cenotaph was what the people wanted, and that they wanted to have the wood and plaster original replaced by an identical memorial in lasting stone. It was a mass-feeling too deep to express itself more fitly than by piles of fresh flowers which loving hands placed on the Cenotaph day by day. Thus it was decided, by the human sentiment of millions, that the Cenotaph should be as it is now, and speaking as the designer, I would wish for no greater honour, no more complete and lasting satisfaction'. [11] 'In some mysterious way, the design of the Cenotaph embodied the nation's deep and terrible bereavement. It became the focus for four years of pent-up sorrow which had been waiting for victory, or some tangible signal, to be released. For the Government, this spontaneous wave of public approval solved the thorny task of defining a program and selecting a design for a permanent memorial'. [12]

Sir Alfred Mond pressed the Cabinet for a decision on 'retaining in a permanent form the Whitehall Cenotaph'. He told them: 'Unless it were removed within the next nine or ten days it would probably crumble to pieces'. [13] The Cabinet took the decision that it was to be re-erected in a permanent form on the same site. The Times reported: 'It is understood that the Cabinet were largely influenced in their decision to retain the Whitehall site by a moving letter from Sir Edwin Lutyens, which Sir Alfred read to the assembled Ministers. There were several alternative proposals before the Cabinet. The one which obtained most support was that the Cenotaph should be re-erected in permanent form in a spot to which traffic considerations did not apply - for preference in the Mall. The final decision was taken against any change of site on the ground that the Cenotaph in its present position had memories which could not be uprooted'. [14]


[7] Sir Edwin Lutyens Journal of Remembrance.
[8] Allan Greenburg Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (USA) 1989 Vol 48.
[9] Sir Edwin Lutyens Journal of Remembrance.
[10] The Times 21st July 1919 p. 15.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Allan Greenburg Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (USA) 1989 Vol 48.
[13] War Cabinet Meeting 602, July 30th 1919. PRO file Works/20/139.
[14] The Times 31st July 1919.

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