It’s 100 years since the unveiling of the Wellington College War Memorial on 24th October 1922. Made from black, white and green marble and designed by Edwin Lutyens, the architect of the cenotaph in Whitehall, the memorial features a figure of St George, and a Union flag of painted marble so convincing as to be mistaken for the real thing.
The question of a suitable monument to the fallen Wellingtonians of the First World War was under discussion even before the war had finished. The first priority was a fund to provide scholarships for the children of fallen officers, above and beyond what was provided by our original Foundation. This was put in place, but it was also felt important to have a permanent physical memorial within College.
Several ideas were discussed, among them the construction of a Reading Room where the names of the dead would be displayed. This idea was rejected as too expensive, but eventually came to fruition in the form of the refurbishment of Great School after the Second World War. In 1921, however, it was decided that a memorial should be placed in the apse of the Chapel’s northern aisle, recently empty after the demise of the old organ.
Lutyens’ design, unanimously approved by the Governors, includes not only the marble memorial itself but the lining of the apse behind in dove-coloured marble, bearing the inscriptions “Their name liveth for evermore” and “To honour those boys, masters and servants of this College, who served and died for England in the Great War.” It is one of very few school memorials which specifically mention College servants.
The memorial is unusual in not listing the individual names of the fallen; it was felt that these would detract from its overall visual impact. Instead, a beautiful illustrated parchment book of all the names, some 700 in all, was commissioned, the intention being to keep this on a lectern near the memorial. This ‘Liber Aureum’ or Golden Book, created by notable Arts and Crafts artist Jessie Bayes, is now displayed in a glass case in Chapel.
The memorial was unveiled in 1922 by the College’s President, the Duke of Connaught, at a service attended by 550 relatives of the deceased. Among these was the Duke’s sister Princess Beatrice, whose son Prince Maurice of Battenberg (Benson 1905-09) was killed in action near Ypres in October 1914.
The memorial itself carries the College motto and the dates 1914 and 1919 in Roman numerals. The corresponding numerals for 1939 and 1945 were added after the Second World War.
With thanks to Caroline Jones, College Archivist, for this feature piece.