The Twentieth Century Society

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Anglo Belgian Memorial Photo Sarah J Duncan
Click to see full size Photo © Sarah J Duncan

War memorials

London: Anglo-Belgian Memorial

Status: Listed Grade II
Architect: Sir Reginald Blomfield, Victor Rosseau (Sculpture), 1920
Location: Victoria Embankment

This memorial was a gift from the Belgian nation to thank Great Britain for their assistance to Belgium in the 1914-1918 war. It was unveiled on the 12th October 1920 when Leon Delacroix, the Belgian Prime Minister, offered the memorial to the British nation; the gift was formally accepted by Lord Curzon. The actual unveiling was performed by Princess Clementine of Belgium. The memorial was erected as a token of gratitude by Belgian people who had found refuge in England during the German occupation of their country. The inscription below reads “To the British Nation from the grateful people of Belgium, 1914-1918”.

The beautifully sculpted central bronze group is the work of the sculptor Victor Rousseau (1865 – 1954). He was born at Feluy-Arquennes, in the province of Hainault, the son of a stone-cutter. He studied from 1879-1880 at the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and won the Godecharle prize in 1890 which enabled him to travel to England, France and Italy. He spent two years in Paris and several months in Florence, and returned to Belgium in 1894. From 1901-1919 he was Professor of Sculpture at the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and its director from 1919-1922 and 1931-1935.

In July 1920, and whilst the memorial was still being worked on, intruder[s] entered the site of the memorial and damaged the plaster models of the two figures of “Justice” and “Honour” and some of the shields with what was probably a hammer. Thereafter and until the unveiling, a nightwatchman was employed to guard the site. The memorial features bronze figures representing a Belgian woman accompanied by a boy and a girl both carrying garlands. As part of the Portland Stone surround we see two figures of a man and a woman. One represents “Honour” and the other “Liberty”. Sadly the figures have become worn after years of exposure to the London traffic as have the shields. There were nine shields in all representing Brabant, Anvers (Antwerp), Liege, Hainault, Namur, Limbourg, Luxemburg, and two for Flanders.

Jon Wright

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