Thursday, 28 June 2018

South Africa National Memorial, Polygon Wood and Palingbeek Park

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian is about some of the thoughtful ways in which the First World War is being commemorated in 2018. The article is as below:

There are so many impressive memorials and initiatives, and I would like to focus my comments on three: the South Africa National Memorial in France, Polygon Wood and an art installation at Palingbeek Park (see above), both in Belgium.

The South Africa National Memorial is located near Langueval on the Somme, within Delville Wood where hundreds of their countryman were killed in a terrible battle in July 1916. There are now walls of remembrance (unveiled in July 2016) on the approach to the Memorial and the associated museum. These contain the names of every single fallen serviceman from South Africa listed in alphabetical order – irregardless of race, colour or creed. The director of the site has rightly described this as an “important symbol of a reconciled nation.”

One of the names is that of Harry Osborn, from Summercourt, who served with the South Africa Signals and died in German East Africa (now Tanzania).

In Polygon Wood near Ypres, a Wood of Peace has been planted, which was designed to be a “place that calls to mind the terrible events of the First World War.” It comprises a total of 523 trees – which each reflect a named soldier buried in two nearby cemeteries. At the heart of the Wood, there is also a Peace Monument surrounded by a representation of barbed wire made from 1918 metres of steel banding, which is in memory of the unidentified servicemen who also rest in Polygon Wood cemeteries.

It is symbolic that the Wood is positioned in what was no man’s land during the conflict, as is the land art installation near Zillebeke at Palingbeek Park – the scene of another dreadful battle.

A total of 600,000 sculptures have been produced and placed together in the artwork at Palingbeek. It is huge, but it is also a very personal commemoration, with each sculpture representing one of the 600,000 people of all nationalities, both military and civilian, men, women and children, who lost their lives in Belgium between 1914 and 1918.

In terms of my home area of Fraddon, Indian Queens, St Columb Road and Summercourt, twelve men are remembered there: William James Bailey, Richard Henry Brewer, Christopher Bullock, William Ephraim Dunstan, Fred Langdon, Samuel May, Gerald Clair Menear, Henry Francis Osborne, Thomas James Rabey, Fred Ridgment, Samp Rundle and Albert Samuel Williams.

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