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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

The Anglo-Belgian Memorial in Brussels: An Expression of Gratitude, a Diplomatic Blunder, and a Protest Against War Crimes.
Dr Dennis Wardleworth

The Anglo-Belgian Memorial in Brussels is an explicit thank you to the people of Belgium, who despite their own hardships, helped the British prisoners of war who were released after the Armistice in November 1918. The proposal for a monument came from members of the British delegation to the Armistice Commission who had witnessed the shocking state that these prisoners were in, and the help being given by the Belgians. There was strong opposition to the monument from the Treasury, but a diplomatic blunder, perhaps deliberate, made it impossible to stop. The state of the prisoners was the result of war crimes. The War Crimes Tribunal held in Leipzig after the War ludicrously avoided punishment for those responsible. The money for the memorial was squeezed from the huge budget agreed for Memorials to the Missing being built by the Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC). This allowed the IWGC along with the First Commissioner of Works, the Earl of Crawford, to select Charles Sargeant Jagger as sculptor. Jagger, a Captain in the Worcester Regiment, himself had fought in the battles in which most of the prisoners had been captured. He had a great admiration for the ordinary British soldier. Some of the imagery on the memorial might be read as his protest at the Tribunal’s failure to provide them with some justice.

Dennis Wardleworth spent most of his professional life as a theoretical physicist. After retirement from science, he gained a BA in art history at the Open University, followed by a PhD at the Southampton Institute, now Solent University. His thesis was ‘Building the Modern Corporation: Corporate Art Patronage in Interwar Britain’, the focus of which was the headquarters buildings in London of the new giant businesses, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, later British Petroleum, Imperial Chemical Industries, and Unilever. He followed that with conference papers and a book on the sculptor William Reid Dick, who provided sculpture for Unilever. He then researched the architecture of Thomas Tait, who was at the Glasgow School of Art with Reid Dick. He presented a conference paper at Melbourne University on Tait’s most significant work, the pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and later a paper on the bridges of the Dorman Long Company, on many of which Tait also worked, at a conference at Ironbridge in Shropshire. The research on the Anglo-Belgian Monument rose from his interest in Tait and his relationships with Reid Dick and Jagger. He also recently presented a short paper at the 2022 CAA conference on the nineteenth century British sculptor and designer Alfred Stevens, and his work on the Wellington Monument in St Paul’s Cathedral. Stevens was born in the town where he lives, Blandford Forum in Dorset.

Dennis Wardleworth would like to thank the authors of earlier work: Ann Compton, The Sculpture of Charles Sargeant Jagger (Henry Moore Institute, 2004), Jonathan Black, Neither Beasts, Nor Gods, But Men (PhD thesis, University College London, 2003), and Heather Jones, Violence against Prisoners of War in the First World War (Cambridge University Press, 2011). His paper is just a footnote to their work.

Event information

The Anglo-Belgian Memorial in Brussels: An Expression of Gratitude, a Diplomatic Blunder, and a Protest Against War Crimes by Dr Dennis Wardleworth

An online Zoom talk, PSSA Members free, Non-members £3.50 (join the PSSA).

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The Anglo-Belgian War Memorial, Place Poelaert, Brussels by Charles Sargeant Jagger (photo: Dennis Wardleworth)

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