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Remembering the fallen of the Great War, 1914-1917

In early 1917, there was a strong sense that this would be the year of victory. The directors of the East London Cemetery were so confident that they had it set in stone.

In February 1917, a new monument was unveiled in the East London Cemetery. Under a celtic cross and over a soldier’s cap, rifle and sword set in bronze, the monument’s main message read:

TO

THE MEMORY OF

THE SONS

OF

THE BRITISH EMPIRE

WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES

IN THE CAUSE

OF

RIGHTEOUSNESS

FREEDOM AND HONOUR

IN THE WAR

OF

1914 – 1917

At some point the latter date was removed and, after the war, replaced with ‘1918’ to leave the monument as it stands today:

The East London Cemetery cross (photo (c) flickr user )

The East London Cemetery cross (photo (c) flickr user DeeGeeBee51)

On its other faces the directors express their sympathy of the families of the dead and their gratitude to the maimed servicemen and record the full list of Britain’s allies (which includes the ‘US America’, presumably added after they entered the war later in 1917).

The preemptory inclusion of an end-date for the war is an interesting reflection on the optimism hope felt early in 1917 that the war would indeed end that year. It is a reminder of the obvious fact that one must bear in mind when reading contemporary material from the Great War – that they simply did not know how much longer it would last.

Sources:

UK National Inventory of War Memorials

West Ham and South Essex Mail, February 1917

Thanks to Dai (DeeGeeBee51) for permission to use his photograph of the cross

 
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Posted by on 5 October 2013 in Places, War memorials

 

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