HL Deb 14 February 1945 vol 134 cc1016-54

2.18 p.m.


had the following Notice on the Paper: To ask His Majesty's Government, whether they have been able to give consideration to the report of the War Memorials Advisory Council suggesting suitable forms of war memorials and whether they are prepared to support the action of the Council; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have two objects in moving my Motion to-day. Primarily I have asked for the general approval and support of His Majesty's Government for the action that has been taken by a body called the War Memorials Advisory Council, of which I will speak a little later. I know that the Government cannot give me any assurance that what we have proposed in our Survey can be carried out or endorsed by them. What I want them to do is to give me some support in principle on the action that we have taken. We know that we have the support and sympathy of the Ministers concerned in the matter, but we have now got to the stage when we have circulated our ideas and views to a very large number of people in this country, and we feel it is right at this moment that we should have some public statement to show whether what wt are doing has the general approval of His Majesty's Government or not. We have to remember that although it will be a long time before we start, if we do, erecting war memorials, nevertheless national thought is always a long way ahead of national action, and if we do not take thought in time, then minds will be made up, so that when action is taken it is possible that a wise solution of the problem will not have been reached. The other idea in moving the Motion is that there should be a debate in your Lordships' House and that those for whom I speak should obtain the criticism and also, I hope, the support of your Lordships as a further encouragement to us in the work that we are doing. And we should, of course, greatly welcome any support which your Lordships might extend in any areas where you have influence.

Early last summer, when the war seemed to be coming to an end rather sooner than has proved to be the case, there was a definite movement and rumbling in the air about war memorials, and so the Royal Society of Arts thought it would be wise to call a meeting of influential people and representatives of influential societies to discuss whether any useful action could be taken to focus public opinion on a solution of the problem. A meeting, which was widely attended, was held by the Society under its President, Dr. Armstrong, and after a day's discussion it was decided to create the body which has been called the War Memorials Advisory Council. That body consists, as those who have a copy of the Survey will see, of a very representative number of people. It includes about 42 societies, many of which, in fact all of which, are important, and all of which have some interest in the problem in one or more of its various aspects. I might refer to one or two of these societies for the benefit of those who have not got a copy of the Council's statement. There are, for example, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the National Playing Fields Association, the National Council of Social Service, the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts, the British Legion and many others. We also have a large number of individual members, including twelve Members of the two Houses of Parliament, distinguished figures in literature, art and social service, and a number of representatives of the Churches.

This body, after meeting once or twice, produced what is called the Survey, which I hope all your Lordships have seen. I have endeavoured, so far as I could, to send personal copies to those who I thought would be likely to wish to speak on this occasion, and have also placed a number of copies on the Table of the House. I can only apologize to your Lordships if any of you have not been able to see it, which I hope is not the case. In addition, we have circulated the Survey to some 9,000 boroughs, county councils, town councils, urban and rural district councils and parish councils. We have also circulated it to all the Lords-Lieutenant, from most of whom we have had encouraging and sympathetic replies, together with requests for a large number of additional copies. We have also circulated it to certain Ministers of State. A number of other people have received it through our associated societies. A similar Council has been formed in Scotland, with which we shall be in touch.

Now the main objects, the main aims, of the Survey are, first of all, to obtain a wise solution of what is by no means an easy problem; secondly, to focus public opinion on all the possibilities; thirdly, to stress the necessity for a high standard of social and cultural value in our war memorials and that they shall fulfil a permanent rather than a merely temporary need. Lastly, we provide a central office, as it were, whereby all those who wish to erect war memorials can obtain the advice of the society most able to help them. There is one thing that we do not pretend to do, and that is to lay down any laws or rules. We do not even propose to advise what particular war memorial should be erected in any given locality. What we do say is this: "If any of you wish to erect a war memorial, will you, before you do so, consider the suggestions that we have placed before you, and when you have chosen from them, or some other which may occur to you—because obviously our suggestions cannot be all-embracing—will you consult us, if you wish, in order that we can put you in touch with the organization which is best able to help you and so ensure that what you build or create will be something which you will always be happy to have provided?"

The subject of war memorials is one which must be approached with discretion. It touches human feeling deeply and it is one about which there must be a variety of opinions in many areas of the country. It is true to say, however, that it has always been an instinct in human nature to remember those who have died and, after a war, to honour and commemorate the fallen, and to do so not in any merely temporary manner but in a way which will endure and will be an inspiration to future generations. The two wars which we have had to fight in our lifetime will be undoubtedly a landmark in our national history. Historians will look back on them in the course of time as one war, one great struggle for freedom, a struggle in which the British race has taken a leading part and, for the size of our population, perhaps the greatest part. It is a struggle from which we shall emerge a greater people, with, we hope, if we take care to remember what we have done, greater unity and comradeship in the country.

Comradeship can be best effected by having a happy country, and the State is doing, or will do, a great deal with that object in view. Can we use our action as regards war memorials to effect the same purpose? It is natural at this moment, with the present trend of thought, to consider in regard to our war memorials whether we cannot do something which will help the living; but, right as is that thought, we must be careful that we do not forget our sense of duty to honour the fallen. Can we accomplish both objects? By taking thought I believe we can. I think it will be generally agreed that after the last war there was no really co-ordinated thought about war memorials. Everybody had their own ideas. Memorials were erected at the instigation of individuals or local bodies or units of the Services. We can do much better than that. Some of the war memorials that were put up were very beautiful, others perhaps were not. Some were connected very largely with war trophies or war weapons. Although we can, and should, hold all these memorials of the past in high honour, we can profit by experience and see whether on this occasion we cannot take a further step.

Nobody, I am sure, wants to duplicate the action that was taken after the last war and so the Council's Survey strikes a different note. On pages 4, 5, 6 and 7 various suggestions are put forward to the various communities for their consideration, including, for example, the enhancement of the vicinity of the war memorial erected after the last war by some space to beautify the spot; the creation of gardens of memory and meditation; the creation of parks and open spaces; the planting of groups or avenues of memorial trees; the acquisition of hill-tops or viewpoints; the creation of playing fields and children's playgrounds; the building of social centres and village halls; the development of voluntary hospital work and other health organizations or convalescent homes and rest centres for the injured and sick, or some small institution like the Oswald Stoll Homes for the aid and comfort of those who have been injured or incapacitated in war. Many other thoughts will arise in your Lordships' minds but the ideal of the Council is, broadly, to try to get in our war memorials something which will not only honour the dead but also be a help to those who have survived.

The Council stress two things in particular. The first is that whatever war memorial is erected it shall contain as a primary necessity a list of the names of the fallen and where space permits—for instance, if the record is kept in a book—the deeds or the chief deeds of those who have died; and secondly, that the war memorial shall be clearly distinguishable as a war memorial and shall not be liable to be confused with anything else that is done for the benefit of the community by, say, the State. That is a point which to my mind is of very great importance because the war memorial is not a means of relieving the State of its responsibilities to our fighting men and women after this war; nor should it be something which would in any case be provided by the State or by a local authority. If, for example, you were creating a playing field in some small town—and we know that after the war the Government have expressed their hope of being able to increase the playing fields for our schools—then any playing field which is provided as a war memorial should have some clearly distinguishable sign, such as an entrance gate, which wilt show that it is a war memorial and not just a playing field provided by public money that could be done away with at any time. Thereby you will ensure the permanency of the war memorial gift. We all feel that when our fighting men and women return we shall wish to do something in our own locality to honour them and show them our affection and our gratitude for their work, but any such action, it must be remembered, is only transitory and does not take and cannot take the place of what is a war memorial. The Survey stresses the desirability of having a high standard of design in our war memorials and the very great importance of provision being made for their maintenance in order to ensure that they shall not fall into decay and be no longer things of beauty and respect. Lastly, it gives certain views upon how local authorities can be helped in their problems as regards the purchase of land and other things which will occur to your Lordships.

It is for such general principles as I have mentioned, and as the Survey mentions, that we ask for Government approval. You may ask: "Why do you want His Majesty's Government's support at all? Local authorities are well able and free, excepting possibly in the Metropolitan area of London where the authority of the Office of Works is required, to erect what they like in their own areas. Why then do you want Government approval?" Apart from the reason I gave in my initial remarks, there is a very definite State side of the problem. There are the Fighting Services all of wham in time will be considering whether they are going to have war memorials and, if so, of what types they shall be. There will be the Home Office who no doubt will be considering whether to have memorials to our Civil Defence Services, and there will be other Ministries who will be concerned with memorials of other kinds. It is very important therefore that whatever is done by the State through its various units should be done wisely because if the State sets a good lead others are likely to follow. After the last war, I remember, in the case of the Admiralty, Parliament voted £40,000 to the Navy in order that it might erect naval war memorials, and we did so at Plymouth, Portsmouth and Chatham, where landmarks were erected which are there to-day. The Royal Air Force also erected its war memorial on the Thames Embankment and the Army, which of course was infinitely greater in size than either of the other two Services, erected a large number of war memorials, many of them in London, in order to honour their various groups and units.

From what conversation I have been able to have with the Service men of today I do not think any of them will want to repeat the action taken after the last war, but one knows that unless you put forward ideas the subject is rather apt to be dealt with in a haphazard way. So I wrote letters to all the Ministers concerned in the problem and I have had most sympathetic and encouraging replies. I should like to read extracts from two of those letters. One was from the Secretary of State for War, Sir James Grigg. He said in his letter to me: I think you may care to know that arrangements have been made for copies of the Survey to be sent to all regimental associations and when the Battlefields Memorials Committee is formed their attention will also be drawn to it. As, however, the Government view on the subject has not yet been formulated, you will appreciate that we have been unable to say that the Survey represents the official view. The other letter was from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Oliver Stanley, who wrote: The Survey has been read with great interest in my Department and copies have been passed to those officers who will consider in the first instance any suggestions put forward by Colonial Governments for the creation of such memorials. I should be glad if you would let me have any further general statements which may be issued. Perhaps those associated societies who have agreed to act in an advisory capacity on matters within their own sphere will be prepared to extend their help in the case of any individual war memorial project in the Colonies in regard to which I feel that particular advice is needed. Those letters and others we have received have been a great encouragement to us. We realize that nobody in the Service Departments to-day is able to devote time to thinking of war memorials, but the time will come and by taking thought and having something at your elbow when that time does come, useful service will be rendered to the Government. I hope therefore that they will be able to give us a sympathetic reply.

Now I come to my last point which is dealt with in the last paragraph of the Survey, the question of a national war memorial. That is a problem which is even more difficult to consider at the present time but I should like to plant the seed. Why should we not have in London a memorial that would be national in character and, if the Empire felt so inclined, one imperial in spirit? I am not thinking of any enormous building costing a vast sum of money, but rather of an open space of limited size which could be laid out in some rectangular form as a garden with beautiful trees and shrubs and grass, with paths, and at one end a small shrine where services could be held and where tributes to the dead could be placed. Such a memorial of a simple and beautiful nature would not only be a homage to the fallen of the Fighting Services and of the Civil Defence Services, but to all those who have taken part in the war and who deserve to be remembered and honoured. It would be a memorial to our generation for all time.

If, as suggested by the body I represent, our war memorials are in the main to be those which will be useful to the living while honouring the dead, if we are partly to devote ourselves to that utilitarian object in erecting our memorials, it would surely be a well-balanced action that there should be in this great city one war memorial which would commemorate the spirit in which we went to war and the sacrifices that have been made by both our men and women, a memorial which would recognize that those sacrifices were made for the ideals of the British people. If such an idea appeals to His Majesty's Government and to the people of London and the country generally, I would suggest that no other war memorial in London need be erected. The rebuilding of London gives the opportunity to provide the necessary space.

There are various plans afoot at present to express our sentiments as regards our fighting men and others. There is the Lord Mayor's Fund for Seamen, there is the Victory Ex-Services Club for men and women of all the Fighting and Allied Forces, and many other plans, I believe, are extant by which we can express in certain ways our gratitude to those to whom we owe debts. But a plan such as that to which I refer would be broader and more widely embracing in spirit. It would cover not only the Fighting Forces, not only those who would be recognized as primarily to be honoured. It would recognize also the policemen and the firemen who defended their villages against air attack. It would honour the West Africans who fought in North Africa and the Gurkhas who fought in Burma and Italy. It would also be a means of recognizing the wonderful spirit of our women in this country and the way in which they have enhanced our national history. To my mind, it should be a memorial worthy in beauty and simplicity to rank with any in the world; and it would hand down to posterity a remembrance for all time of the greatness of this generation which twice in a lifetime has saved civilization and the world.

What about the cost? How much would it cost? It should cost nothing; nothing at all. Everything should be given—the site to be taken over, the trees, the grass, the very stones of the shrine all should be given. I read in The Times a week ago that when some of our men who had been taken prisoners in the Island of Luzon were released by the American Army, one of those released prisoners said that he and his comrades had been ordered by the Japanese to erect a war memorial to the Japanese soldiers who died in the Malay Pensinsula. What is the value of war memorials erected in that spirit? Every stone put in place would be put in place with hatred and contempt. A war memorial should be built with pride and with affection, and I should like to feel that a memorial of this kind could be built by voluntary labour, everything in it being provided by gifts by the people of this country, so that it could be inscribed: "This memorial was built by the people of England."

Nor let it be thought that by creating such a war memorial, any more than by laying out a garden of memory, you are merely creating something which dwells on the past. What is beautiful and sacred produces beautiful thoughts and inspiration. It can be a means of developing the higher side of our character, and showing that we value it. Most of us know beautiful places or buildings where we have, perhaps, had our highest thoughts and, consciously or subconsciously, have been permanently affected by them. Even, perhaps, by dwelling on what is best and finest in our fellow men one may be inspired to do something for them and for future generations. An opportunity lies before us to create in this great city some place worthy of our spirit and achievements where one can, perhaps, even for a moment, recapture the spirit that is enshrined in it. Do not let us, my Lords, lose such an opportunity. I beg to move.

2.51 p.m.


My Lords, I feel that the country is under a great debt of gratitude to the War Memorials Advisory Council, and may I say that I think that the Council is to be congratulated upon their good fortune in having secured the services of the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, to act as their President. We in turn, I feel, are indebted to the noble Lord for a most moving and convincing speech, and I think those passages must particularly have commended themselves to your Lordships in which the noble Lord spoke so modestly, but yet so firmly, about the great part that this little country has twice played in this century in the service of the world. Whether the Government will accept the Motion or not I do not know. But I feel quite sure that your Lordships will endorse the value of the report of this Council, and will appreciate the pains and thoroughness which must have been taken in its preparation.

Something has been said about the memorials of the last war. I feel that this House is very modest about its own memorial. I have not had the privilege of belonging to your Lordships' House for very long, but, in moving about it, certainly the war memorial has not come to my eve, and, at this moment, I regret to say that I am in ignorance of where it is situated. It is certainly not situated in a place where it does catch the eye. But, as regards the war memorials of the past, which have been erected throughout the country, I am not prepared to join in any wholesale condemnation of them. The noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, let me say at once, did not condemn them, but one often hears people speaking of them in condemnatory terms. I am not prepared to join in that. Tastes, of course, differ but these memorials were erected mainly to commemorate the rank and file of this country who died in its service, and, as such, I believe that their relatives and their friends feel on the whole satisfied, and that they all derive great comfort and great satisfaction from these memorials in our villages and in our towns.

With respect to the war memorials to be erected at the end of this war, I must at once enunciate what, I fear, is a truism: that, of course, the best and finest memorial we can erect to the men who have died in this war is to ensure good treatment of the men who come back and good treatment of their dependants. It may be a truism, but I feel that it needs to be said, for that is the finest memorial of all that we can raise to their memory. As to the report which we are considering this afternoon, I may say that I most fully agree that the prime necessity is the record of the names. That is the great thing: that the record of the names should be kept in some place in every village and every town. That does give great satisfaction to the bereaved. Also, I feel that there is much to commend in the idea of these gardens of memory, of parks and of open spaces. They can be made very beautiful indeed and can be made a really abiding source of inspiration to the generations to come, if the work of creating them is well and worthily done. I demur to one point in the report—that which suggests that hill-tops and viewpoints and buildings of historic and architectural importance might be dedicated as war memorials. I think that that would be very satisfactory and very pleasing to rather a limited number of people; but the great majority of the people who are going to be affected by these war memorials are not people who habitually visit hill-to or view-points or visit houses of historic and architectural value. While I see the attractiveness of the idea, in some respects I think that it is, perhaps, a little fanciful, a little remote from the real purpose which we have in hand.

The idea that appeals to me most is contained in the passage in the report which suggests that very worthy war memorials would take the form of community centres and village halls. That suggestion appeals to me very deeply: that in every town and every village of this country there should be one of these centres or a village hall—especially if that were associated with a centre for all youth activities. After all, twice during this century the youth of this nation have had to go into war for which they must have felt that they had very little responsibility. Twice in this century the youth of our country have been sacrificed in war, and surely it would be a great satisfaction to those who offer their lives if they could feel that throughout the country the nation would do something for the young of the generations to come. It would be difficult to conceive of any form of war memorial which could be a greater source of inspiration and which could have a more abiding value than that. Equally, of course, I feel, as indeed we all must, that most worthy forms of memorial would be hospitals, as mentioned in the report—hospitals and homes, especially very fine homes for the men permanently disabled who will never be able to live without hospital care and attention for the rest of their lives. That, again, I suggest, is a form of memorial which would make a great appeal to all of us.

I would Ike, if I may, to utter just one word of caution—at least I feel that it is a word of caution. I find that in so many villages, and in so many towns and communities, there is someone who has a hobby, someone who has some pet idea, some pet scheme. Do not let us allow war memorials to be used as a means of raising money in order to carry out somebody's pet scheme or further somebody's pet hobby. That can very easily happen, and I feel that it should be guarded against.

With regard to what the noble Lord said about a national memorial in London, for a long time now it has been a pet idea of mine that we should re-design and re-lay-out Trafalgar Square, which to me is the very heart of London. I feel that that idea might be worthy of consideration, and that, if there is to be a national memorial erected in London, Trafalgar Square might be re-designed to play that part. I should like to see each of our Dominions formally deeded a plot of ground in Trafalgar Square, so that here in the heart of London there would be some soil which was Australian soil, Canadian soil and South African soil.


And New Zealand soil.


Certainly. I am grateful to the noble Viscount for reminding me of that.


And Newfoundland, too.


I think that if we are to have this national memorial in London, the claims of Trafalgar Square might very well be considered in that connexion. The whole of this matter of war memorials is one regarding which the country will do honour to itself by taking thought and by doing with dignity and in a form which will be an inspiration for generations to come that which is due to those who have fallen.

3.1 p.m.


My Lords, my noble and gallant friend Lord Chatfield was good enough to send me a copy of the report to which he has referred to-day, and to suggest that I might make some observations in this discussion. I gladly accept that invitation, with the brevity which the occasion requires. We should be grateful to him and to the Royal Society of Arts for having taken the initiative in this matter. That ancient and distinguished Society has done nothing in recent years more timely or more helpful than this. It has collected around itself a very large body of authoritative assistance to co-operate in this undertaking. It makes no specific suggestion with regard to a national memorial; although one or two suggestions have been thrown out by the two noble Lords who have preceded me, the report itself does not venture upon that field. Indeed, it would require separate and very deliberate consideration before any conclusion could be reached upon so great a question as a national war memorial to be established in the capital of the Empire. Similarly, the various arms of the Fighting Services and regiments and other units, and the Civil Defence Services, will also probably have their own separate memorials.

Throughout the country, however, in every town and in many villages there will be a spontaneous desire to commemorate for all time the dead of their own place, and some guidance is necessary to assist the local committees in deciding what form their action should take. The report of the Council of which the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, is the President points out that the temptation should be resisted to adopt some utilitarian project, some local improvement which would in any case be carried out sooner or later, and to seize the opportunity of raising funds in order to carry it out in connexion with a war memorial, attaching to it some decorative label to justify the collection of subscriptions, but in reality merely carrying out some desirable local object and seizing the opportunity to put it into effect. That temptation should undoubtedly be resisted, and a body such as has now taken the matter in hand will give appropriate guidance in that regard.

The Council point out that if sculpture is to form part of a memorial the excellence of the design is of the first importance. All over this country there are many lamentable war memorials, some dating from the South African War—usually the figure of a private soldier in a very bellicose attitude, apparently carved by the local monumental mason. Advice should also be given where necessary as to the siting and surroundings of any memorial. I find no reference to this in the report. In this respect London does not always show a good example. For instance, at Hyde Park Corner, as we can all see, there are several war memorials, some of them excellent as specimens of the sculptor's art, but constituting altogether a rather unhappy jumble of different and discordant styles of sculpture and design. Again, there is the group in Waterloo Place, consisting of the Crimean war memorial with statues of Sidney Herbert and Florence Nightingale, closely surrounded by four elaborate and assertive lamp-posts. Such a thing would not be possible, I am sure, in Paris or in Washington.

On this matter of design, the report emphasizes the importance of two qualities: dignity and simplicity. British art in earlier generations was not distinguished by those qualities, and there was much that was elaborate and tawdry; but I think that we have emerged from that period. Thomas Hardy, in one of his novels, says that in the little country town he is describing the ladies' dress was divided into classes: the simple and the mistaken. And so it is frequently with other forms of art. Simplicity, it has been said, is the peak of civilization, and in the modern world we see that it is really an element, and a supreme element, in fine design. It is simplicity which gives to the Cenotaph in Whitehall its appeal and its influence. Some of your Lordships will have seen the specific recommendations which are made in this report. One, which will be generally accepted, is that a book containing the names of the fallen should form part of a memorial. The Birmingham memorial of the last war is a very fine example of a shrine in which the central feature is a record of that character. It is also suggested that a memorial garden or park should frequently be adopted as a suitable form of memorial. In such a park or garden a shrine of that character might well be the central feature. Although a park might be considered to have a utilitarian purpose, it is not wholly utilitarian, for an amenity is something more than a utility.

A copy of this report came before a committee at Oxford (where I am now living) of which I am the Chairman. This committee has been considering this question of a war memorial in Oxford in a preliminary and wholly unofficial manner, but it consists of representatives of some of the authorities that will be concerned, Our minds are already moving in precisely the direction suggested in this report, and we very cordially welcomed the encouragement that was given by that document. Let me repeat that these inquiries are at present entirely in a preliminary stage. We all offer our thanks to the Royal Society of Arts and to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chatfield, for their initiative in offering to the nation helpful suggestions and carefully considered advice on a matter which is of no small importance, for we shall be commemorating for posterity events, achievements and sacrifices which are momentous in the history of mankind.

3.10 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say a few words in this debate on behalf of the National Council of Social Service and also of the C.P.R.E. —the Council for the Preservation of Rural England—of which I happen to be the Gloucestershire President, and of which, by the way, my good friend Major-General Sir Fabian Ware—who, as your Lordships know, is responsible for the War Graves Commission—is the very efficient Chairman. I should like on behalf of the bodies I have mentioned very warmly to congratulate the Royal Society of Arts and especially my noble and gallant friend Lord Chatfield on this very useful guide to all those in different parts of the country who desire to erect appropriate and fitting war memorials. I submit that the best way to honour the fallen is to provide a fuller and a better life for the living, especially for those who, by their skill, endurance, courage and sacrifice, have made victory possible, and—I particularly wish to emphasize—for their children.

With what the noble Lord, Lord Winster, has said I am in entire and profound agreement. He incidentally referred to Trafalgar Square. I am not quite sure that I should share altogether his outlook and objective in regard to Trafalgar Square, but with regard to his suggestion that different parts of Trafalgar Square should be allotted to different parts of the British Empire, which have shown such magnificent solidarity during the whole of the present war, I should like to mention this, which may appeal to his sentiment and to his Imperial patriotism. In the district in which I live, where, for the benefit of a growing town, there is already a considerable and well-equipped public park, it has already been decided that the war memorial shall take the form, at least in part, of an extension of that park; and from a little village in New Zealand has come the generous offer to plant out that extension with New Zealand flowering shrubs which can thrive in the climate of this old country. I mention that only to show that other parts of the Empire are quite prepared to do their part in making complete and appropriate our war memorials in this country.

When we come to the village hall or, in the case of the large centres of rural population, the Community Centre, I for my part cannot conceive of anything that is more likely to appeal to our fighting men than the provision of such centres for social, rocreative and educational pur- poses; and I may in this connexion remind your Lordships that, as was mentioned only about a fortnight ago in this House, already the Fighting Services are being provided—particularly the Army through the War Office—with most excellent literary material with a view to improving and continuing the education of those who are on active service at the various war fronts. Not only that, but in all our prisoner-of-war camps there is a clamant demand to-day for facilities for adult education, in a large number of cases for occupational lectures and professional training; and many men in those camps have already passed the requisite standard to enable them to have official recognition by various professional bodies of their competence and their aptitude to carry on that sort of work after the war, I cannot help feeling—and this is being borne out by various branches of the British Legion throughout the country—that no form of war memorial will appeal more to our fighting men when they come home than something in the nature of a Community Centre or a village hall.

My noble friend Lord Chatfield started his speech by saying it will be a long time before we can provide war memorials, but there is no doubt that if we mean to plan a suitable war memorial we must not delay the process; and all over the country various schemes are being put forward with a view to providing really suitable and appropriate war memorials. He also said—and this appealed to me very strongly—that we should bear in mind that in the eyes of posterity the two wars will be regarded as one in a great continuing battle for the freedom of mankind. In that connexion I want to suggest that in many places where more or less suitable war memorials were provided after the list war, an extension of the war memorial, particularly if it serves some good social purpose, might be embarked upon as a suitable war memorial at the present time.

May I instance one village in the county of Gloucester, with which I am familiar where, without any element of patronage—which I think has been so unfortunate and dangerous in days gone by—the working people of the village, associated mainly with an industrial works in the neighbourhood, decided to provide a well-equipped village hall almost entirely out of the savings from their own wages? That village hall—which by the way forms a sort of umbrella to cover all the social and recreational activities of the village—brought all the people together, of varying creeds and varying political Parties, so that it is almost a perfect communal effort, in which all the villagers take a deep interest. They are now asking that the hall shall be further equipped and extended and that a recreation ground shall be provided as a suitable adjunct to that hall to commemorate those who have fallen in the present war. The very fact that that suggestion has been put forward has evoked on the part of one individual (it is not myself, I may say) a seven-year covenant to provide £100 a year for each of seven years in order to equip and extend that village hall; and another individual has promised to provide, free of cost, an area of land adjoining for a recreation ground for the children. I only throw out that as an indication of the sort of appropriate war memorial to which, at least in the villages, we may look to evoke public spirit and, with some self-sacrifice on the part of the local inhabitants, a considerable voluntary contribution.

I know that it is undesirable to emphasize too much the utilitarian aspect of a war memorial. I agree with my noble friend Lord Samuel in what he says, that after all there are social advantages that can be gained from what is in every respect a suitable war memorial which may not be in a strict sense utilitarian but may provide an immense amount of comfort, well-spent leisure and educational and spiritual advantage to those who will get the benefit from it. In this connexion, I venture to suggest that, instead of asking the Government to stand apart from those who live in various localities in regard to their war memorials, this is a good opportunity for the Government, the local authorities and local benefactors or various classes to combine together and co-operate in, providing a really good and suitable war memorial. I know that there is a tendency to concentrate effort on memorials in the great centres of population. At a large and well-attended meeting called by the Rural Community Council of Gloucestershire the other day—a most crowded meeting, representative of all the different local authorities in the county—there was obviously a desire that we should not expend cur energies, as villagers, upon great centralized war memorials in the centres of population. There seemed to be a strong desire that the local people, knowing full well those who have gone forth from their parish to the war and knowing only too well those whom they have lost in the war, should have a local war memorial. They desired to have a simple and dignified form of war memorial and they wished it to be their own war memorial and not a war memorial provided by the city or by any other large adjoining community.

The noble and gallant Lord, in his excellent report, has referred to the aesthetic side of what is desired in this connexion. I happen to live in one of the most beautiful counties, perhaps the most beautiful county, in England.



A county of perhaps greater varied scenic beauty than any others, at least in England.



Name it.


There may, of course, be differences of opinion on that subject. What I do want to suggest, however, is that whereas nature has abundantly provided for the happiness, pleasure and æsthetic satisfaction of man, it is man who has done so much to detract from what nature has provided. I would like most warmly to support this report, and I hope that it may be a useful guide for all those who are searching for knowledge on this particular subject.

3.23 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful indeed to the noble and gallant Lord who opened this discussion today and who sent me what is called the Survey which has enabled me to take part in this debate. We have already heard various views in regard to what should be done, and while I would like to pay my very warm tribute for the excellent material in the Survey, I was fearing that perhaps I should not even be in order in discussing anything in connection with a national memorial. The noble and gallant Lord who moved to-day, however, has opened that matter and has given me the opportunity. It does seem to me that the larger part of the people of this country would prefer something considerably more than what has been intimated by the noble Lord—a shrine, a big open space, and so on. I think Londoners themselves and large interests in London would be warm supporters of whatever was agreed upon, and they, too, would want something greater than has been suggested. Again, there comes the question of the tribute which will undoubtedly come from places overseas throughout the whole of our Empire. As yet, I presume, we know very little of exactly what form that will take. Perhaps they will want something of a larger and more dignified character to show recognition of the great stress which, twice in our time, this country has been through. I think those pilgrims, when they come over, will wish to start something of their own in commemoration. There will be a conflict of ideas as to what is right, and as time is the essence of most things it is well that that side of the question should receive some thought.

I do not know—judging from what I have read in the Survey—that the great city companies have been considered at all or had this matter put before them. We have heard nothing of what kind of tribute is likely to come from them. Seeing that London is the centre of the whole Empire and that there is no great institution in any part of the Empire that has not got its representatives in London, it seems a pity that this matter has not been put before them, so that collectively or individually they could have given consideration as to what was the best thing to do. We have a great monument, a very fine and most distinctive monument, in Scotland, and fortunately as grand a site as could have been found. There are many people who will be thinking that something of that character should go down through the ages, something worthy and dignified, and particularly if it were, as Lord Samuel has said, simple and fine in design. I cannot finish my speech without paying my own tribute to the industry, the zeal and the ability which have been put into the matter by the noble and gallant Lord who introduced this Motion, to the ultimate benefit of this country in recognizing the great values which lie in the hearts and minds of men after the great stress of the last two generations.

3.29 p.m.


My Lords, may I ask your indulgence in addressing you in this House for the first time? I am quite certain that the War Memorials Council will be more than grateful for the way in which their Survey has been received in your Lordships' House to-day. I have always taken a great interest in war memorials. Whenever I go into a town or a village I always go to look at the war memorial. Some are quite charming, some are in a very bad state, with the stones chipped and most of the lettering illegible. In places the name of the village was cut out when we had the invasion scare. I am very pleased to discover that the Council have decided that it is not only bricks and mortar which should make a war memorial, and that they suggest houses, gardens, parks, playing grounds and community and recreation centres. These are of great value, as we all know, to the youth of the country. To come to more practical things what we really have got to do is to make the appeals for funds. As secretary of one of the war memorials I know that if we do not make an appeal soon probably we shall not get the money. At present, I imagine, there is the money about. You have only to look at the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, which goes up and up, to realize that that is the case.

I should also like to say that I think it would be advisable, if possible, to include in these war memorials the Home Guard and the Women's Services and the National Fire Service, all of whom have done a tremendous amount of work throughout these years of war. I think also that before the form of any memorial is decided upon the fighting men should be consulted. Further, we ought to think about the schools and the sort of memorials that might be erected in the independent, the secondary and the primary schools. I think we ought to remind all our children what our good fellows have done in order that they might live. It might be possible in schools to put up some kind of a memorial with the names engraved upon it of the scholars of the school who served in the war. It might become the custom as the boys and girls pass these memorials that they should salute those who have died for them by touching their hats or making a curtsey. That is rather on the lines of what you might call saluting the quarter deck. These memorials to be erected in the schools should be regarded as a kind of cenotaph of those who have died. I hope something may be done to help the young people of the country in ways that I have suggested.

2.34 p.m.


My Lords, after the speeches which we have heard there is very little left to be said. But there is one thing I wish to say and I am delighted that it falls to my lot to say it, and that is to congratulate the noble Lord, my old and valued friend, who has just spoken, on having delivered his maiden speech. He is to be congratulated, and the House is to be congratulated that at long last he has broken the silence in which he has been content to stay for too many years. Silence is a virtue which we may wish many to cultivate, but in the case of Lord Wigram it is a fault of which I am very glad he has now repented. I congratulate your Lordships' House also on the prospect of hearing more from him in days to come, for there are few men whose unique knowledge and experience more entitle them to address your Lordships than the noble Lord who has now made his maiden speech.

Having said that, which is the only thing I want most to say, and having regard to what I have just said about the virtue of silence, I hesitate to say anything further about the matter which is before us, but I would venture to emphasize one point. I think there has been a tendency in the discussion to forget what is laid down by the report to which the noble and gallant Lord has called attention—namely, associating the particular form of war memorial chosen with those whom it is desired to commemorate. This association should be not only direct but also readily discerned and remembered. Perhaps I may be on rather unpopular ground when I state that I have noticed this afternoon a tendency to succumb a little to the prevailing utilitarian spirit of the age and to be eager always to attach to the form of the war memorial some advantage which may be gained by those who erect it. I know very well what is meant, and appreciate it, when we are told to consider what the present fighting men would wish when they come home. We must consider what the fighting men would wish when they come home and we must try to do it, but this tendency to which I have alluded I think goes a little beyond that point. We have to consider not what we would most wish for the living but what we owe to the dead. No doubt the last thing that many of the fighting men would wish would be to press anything that was due to themselves; but for that very reason we have to remember what we and the country owe to them. Therefore it is the association of the war memorial visibly and permanently with those whom we desire to commemorate that ought to be a guiding principle.

I think that observation applies to some of the suggestions even in the excellent report which we are considering. For instance, playing fields and playgrounds for children. Your Lordships will remember that when we were considering a national memorial to the late King George V it was agreed to erect an appropriate statue (which I hope as soon as this war is over will be seen in its place beside Henry VII Chapel by Westminster Abbey, facing the Houses of Parliament) and also the establishment of children's playgrounds all over the country. In regard to these playgrounds there was a stipulation that on the gateway or in some conspicuous place the name of King George V was to be clearly visible, but when I have seen some of them I have wondered how many of the young children who go in and out of the gateway will ever give a single thought to the good King. Similarly there is the same danger about village halls and community centres and the like. I should like to assure my noble friend Lord Bledisloe there is no one in this House who is more eager for the establishment of community centres of that kind than I am, but those are for ourselves in this generation much more obviously than they are a commemoration of the dead. Very often these are things that we ought plainly to do for ourselves; they are what we ought plainly to expect the community to do on its own initiative and for its own honour; and I rather deprecate the tendency to be always asking not only whether this will be suitable as a commemoration of the dead but whether it will be of some advantage to us who are living.

I myself would favour very much the choice of what the report calls—and it gives some importance to it—gardens of memory, places of quiet and rest, beauty and meditation, where there will be no question of the memory of the dead being always seen and felt. I think, for instance, of what I suppose all who have seen it would agree to be the finest memorial of the last war in this country—namely, the beautiful cloister at Winchester College, which we owe to the genius of Sir Herbert Baker, where the custom to which the noble Lord, Lord Wigram, alluded, of all the boys touching their hats as they pass the list of names is observed. There is similarly, by the same architect, the very beautiful garden under the shadow of Canterbury Cathedral. It may not be possible for gardens of that kind to be provided on such a scale as that, but I think even the simplest would bring with it associations which we should always feel. There is the possibility, indeed, of utilizing some of the bombed sites for this purpose. It has already been proved how readily and generously flowers and plants of the loveliest kind will grow on such sites. Why not use them appropriately for the purpose of commemorating those who suffered in the Great War?

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, that in any form of memorial there should be a list of the actual names of those who are commemorated. I will make only two observations about that. One is that I hope great attention will be paid—far more than after the last war—to the fundamental importance of lettering. It is useless to trust a thing so important to local tradesmen. Artists like Eric Gill and the late Edward Johnston have shown how much beauty and distinction can be given to the very simplest lettering. I regard that as fundamental to all this discussion about memorials. The second observation I would make is that I hope—perhaps your Lordships will think it natural that I should—that there will be a list kept in the parish churches, especially in the country districts. I wonder how many of your Lordships remember that James Anthony Froude, when he was asked what to him was the real abiding England, answered at once: "It is when I look down upon an English village and see the tower of the village church arising out of the clustering roofs or sometimes hear its evening bell." Therefore I hope that, apart from denominational considerations, in that most abiding shrine of English memories there always will be a list of the names of the people of that village who honoured it by their sacrifice.

I must not dwell much upon the last subject to which my noble friend called attention, the national memorial, because of its intrinsic difficulties. We are indeed fortunate that the one national memorial of the last war was the Cenotaph in Whitehall which we owe to the genius of Sir Edwin Lutyens, so quiet, so significant, so dignified in its very simplicity. We cannot have another Cenotaph but I notice the report suggests what it calls shrines. If there are to be national shrines surely the only place suitable for them is in close connexion with Westminster Abbey, our great and abiding national shrine, but unfortunately one knows by experience that there will be always objections—I think some misguided objections—to erecting new buildings round the Abbey. But if there is to be any additional building of that sort erected in connexion with and round about the Abbey, clearly it must be reserved for those persons of special eminence in our national life for whom in the future there will be certainly no room in the Abbey itself. We must look elsewhere.

I was much attracted by the reference of the noble Lord to a garden of memory somewhere in connexion with the new planning schemes for the City of London. He put forward in eloquent language a notion which has been passing through my own mind. Sometimes it might be in the form of a very noble arch or gateway, such as the singularly impressive Menin Gate at Ypres which I had the privilege of dedicating on a memorable occasion after the last war, but whatever it be I am quite sure great care ought to be taken, that in point of site, design and character, any memorial in London shall be conspicuously worthy of the great purpose for which it is dedicated. I hope that the discussion which has taken place in your Lordships' House will carry out its purpose and impress upon people not only the value of the report about which the noble Lord has spoken, but the duty in our generation of providing a worthy memorial for the men and women who lived and suffered and died in that generation.

3.46. p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join with other noble Lords in thanking Lord Chatfield for giving the House an opportunity of a discussion based on the very valuable report of the War Memorials Advisory Council. It is no easy matter to get the right approach to war memorials; the mood of this country is a very different mood from what it was at the close of the last war. As the noble Lord himself said there are varieties of view up and down the country about war memorials and their character, but there is one thought which should be in the very forefront of our minds as we look back upon the ordeal of the last five and a half years when we have been pitted—sometimes alone—against the most formidable foe in the whole of our long history. I would like to Put that thought in Shakespeare's words in King Henry V. Your Lordships will remember that after the Battle of Agincourt Henry V. asks the English Herald to give him a list of the names of the English fallen. The King takes the paper and he reads the list thus: Edward the Duke of York, the Earl of Suffolk, Sir Richard Ketly, Davy Gam, esquire: None else of name; and of all other men But five and twenty, O God, thy arm was here; And not to us, but to thy arm alone, Ascribe we all! I think that the predominant thought as we look back from the depth of our hearts on this gift of victory and our ordeal is gratitude to the Almighty for deliverance from sore peril, and, as a necessary consequence of that, to resolve to be a better nation, to make, to the utmost of our power, a fairer land with a fuller life for those who survive, and to make a just and lasting peace.

The report roughly divides war memorials into two categories—first, records of names; second, further memorials. I agree with all the report says about the records of names, the insistence that is placed on excellence of design, well-cut inscriptions where the names are put on stone, and the deprecation of long and elaborate heavy tablets. I think that it is possible, at any rate in smaller villages and smaller communities, if the proportions of the existing monuments will not be adversely affected, to add the names to those already on the panel or at the foot of the cross, or on a panel near by. But the suggestion of books of remembrance which the report makes is, I think, a suggestion which everybody ought to support as well and as fully as he can, for these books of remembrance can be beautiful works of art containing the names of the fallen, very well written by professional writers, the whole very well bound. I should like to add my expression of agreement to what the most reverend Prelate who has just sat down said in suggesting that the parish church, if possible, would form a very suitable shelter for the names of the fallen of all religions; both of men and women in the Services and of men and women who have been killed at home.

But when we turn to the references to "further memorials," a more difficult question arises. I think that every parish, or at least every village and town, should have its own record of names. But there is a great deal to be said for encouraging at any rate the smaller villages and towns to join in a worthy memorial in some central place in the county. Noble Lords have already asked that we should avoid the simple duplication of existing war memorials. It would be very difficult to avoid simple duplication if we had not some alternative plan of co-operative memorials. Taking a long view, I suggest that it would be far better to persuade the many concerned to concentrate on some noble building or scene as a focus of common pilgrimage—such as the Scottish war memorial at Edinburgh or the Kent County war memorial at Canterbury—than to distribute our resources. And it will be a lot easier to do justice to the educational and spiritual purpose of war memorials, of which Lord Chatfield has spoken, if the community contributing to the war memorials is varied and large.

The British have their own way of expressing a spiritual purpose. The Imperial War Graves Commission, under the fine leadership of Major-General Sir Fabian Ware, interpreted the British tradition, in cemeteries for one million dead, with real genius, and Sir Herbert Baker, the inspired creator of some of the best home war memorials, gives excellent expression to the British way of remembrance in his recent book Architecture and Personalities. He writes: … my own thoughts always turned to the beauty associated with the churchyard and cloister, a sacred place, a temenos. It was also my belief that war or other memorials lose much of their spiritual value and appeal if they are not placed in sites already hallowed by past associations or where these associations can grow, in the course of the years, in peaceful places where attention is arrested and emotions heightened by their surroundings. Such sacred places, if they could not be found, must, I thought, be created. If this is a true account of our British conception of remembrance of the fallen, there is a great deal to be said for guiding those responsible for the larger memorials to places like the precincts of a cathedral, with its garden and cloisters and green lawns, and then to fashion some noble commemoration of which the architecture of the cathedral will best determine the expression.

There are some suggestions in the report, such as those relating to gardens of remembrance and memorial trees, which would fit in with such a sacred place. A special type of hospital for disabled ex-Service men, with a garden with possibilities of common life, and a chapel of remembrance, would be in keeping with the idea. But I agree with the most reverend Lord Lang, and one or two others who have spoken, in deprecating the purely utilitarian type of memorial, and I would underline, what the report itself says, that a memorial should not consist in the provision of facilities which the Government, national or local, will in any case provide. Village halls, community centres, and child welfare clinics are all most desirable in themselves but I think that they are to be deprecated as war memorials. I am not at all sure, from conversations that I have had, that the relatives of the fallen, whose feelings are the most to be considered, would welcome village halls as a memorial to those they have lost.

And there is another reason why I deprecate utilitarian war memorials. The war has seen an orgy of destruction of beautiful things all over Europe. We owe it to the coming generations to create beautiful things in their stead. Therefore, I would appeal to those concerned with war memorials to call in the services of artists and craftsmen to spread the love of beauty and to create patterns of beauty in memorial gardens, cloisters, colleges, chapels, by way of victory over the war, and call in the painter and the sculptor to adorn the county hall, the council chamber, the courtyard, the school and the church, not only with representations of glorious exploits of the county regiments, the Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy, Civil Defence, statesmanship and so on, or of the sufferings of war, but also with the scenes and monuments of peace, with mural paintings and effigies of agriculture—to which we in this country owe such an immense debt—industry, law, commerce, education, science, poetry, religion, honour and freedom, the very possessions and treasures which victory will have saved for our children and for posterity. I would call in not least with other craftsmen the weaver and the embroiderer, to recall the annals of this war for the delight of distant centuries in glowing colour and line on a modern Bayeux Tapestry.

Greatly daring, I should like to throw out a particular suggestion for a special kind of war memorial which links the present with the past. I do not wish to connect it in any particular way with the plea for a national memorial. Perhaps the finest war memorial in England is All Souls College, Oxford. It was founded twenty years after the battle of Agincourt by Henry Chichele, Archbishop of Canterbury, to endow learning and religion. It was called All Souls because, in the founder's words, it was a college of clerks bounden with all devotion to pray for the souls … of Henry V, lately King of England and France, the Duke of Clarence and other Lords and Lieges of the realm of England whom the havoc of that warfare between the two realms bath drenched with the bowl of bitter death, and also for the souls of the faithful departed. What a grand conception of a war memorial it would be if another college should be founded in memory of the fallen of this war, which would have as its object to teach again the love of beauty to men! It should be a centre which would take some time to grow, with its cloisters, its records of the fallen on the walls, and its schools and workshops attached for art and needlework and local craftsmanship. It would have its religious side, with a church or chapel as the focus of inspiration and centre of prayer, but it would be a communal rather than an ecclesiastical memorial. It would be of great value in restoring local genius, creating a local tradition and giving the opportunity for individual work and labour among the young, a college of remembrance and recreation, with cloisters and quadrangles and green lawns and schools and a church, dedicated, in memory of those who have fallen, to the re-creation of a love of beauty.

I offer these reflections as one of the spiritual Peers. The most reverend Primate has already explained to Lord Chatfield that he cannot be here to-day. He is greatly interested in this whole subject, and I have been in consultation with him. I must not claim his endorsement of the details of my remarks, and certainly not of the particular proposal, which I have not discussed with him, which I have just made; but I can make bold to say that with the spirit of my approach to war memorials he and my brother Bishops are in agreement. The Church of England, for its own special memorials inside its own buildings, has its diocesan advisory committees and its Central Advisory Council for the Care of Churches, and it will endeavour to keep a high standard for its war memorials and to encourage good design and local crafts. Apart from this, the Church—be it Church of England or any other religious communion—has a natural relation to the memorials of the fallen. The Church makes no claim for special rights in any locality, small or great, when the form of war memorials is considered. Its desire is simply to be of assistance to the relatives and to the community. It is as a minister of a Church seeking to serve in a matter which touches so many fellow-citizens so deeply that I have ventured to address your Lordships to-day.

4.6 p.m.


My Lords, I think that anybody who knows his own particular part of England and the villages and towns in the district where he lives will agree with me that there are two characteristics about this whole question of war memorials which are worth noting. The first is that two villages living cheek by jowl may not have the same ideas on this question. An important result of that fact is that all villages and towns should have every opportunity of making up their minds as to what form of memorial they desire. The second feature which I think is characteristic of this whole question is that after the last war there was not the good advice available which, thanks to the efforts of my noble friend Lord Chatfield, is going to be available now. I am delighted that this debate has taken place to-day and that the noble Lord has referred to his efforts, for which we are so grateful, so that everybody in any part of the country who is thinking of having a war memorial will know where to go for the best advice.

The only other matter to which I wish to refer arises out of the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, who, if I understood him aright, advocated that each village and each little town should have its own memorial rather than be associated with any central effort. I think that perhaps it is worth while to tell your Lordships that in my own part of the world—the north of Buckinghamshire and the south of Northamptonshire—there is already on foot a very big effort to provide a war memorial for this war. We have started early. There is a central hospital which for over two hundred years has catered for some three hundred surrounding villages. In peace-time as in war-time those villages look to this central hospital for much which is very vital to them. Many of these villages have already decided that it would be a most fitting war memorial—not necessarily the only war memorial, but a very fitting memorial, in which every village can take part and is taking part—to do something for this hospital, more especially since there is a waiting list of over a thousand who wish to attend the hospital. They think it would be very fitting, in memory of all those who have served and who have fallen, to contribute to this central hospital in order to do away altogether with this long waiting list and to improve the accommodation and the services which the hospital has been able to provide in the past. The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, may be right in preferring a local effort in each village—I am inclined to agree with him—but I should like to add that that does not in the least prevent villages and towns contributing to a great central scheme which may be a blessing for the whole neighbourhood.


May I just say that I entirely agree?

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say a few words in support of the Motion moved by the noble Lord. I am closely connected with the National Trust and with the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and I have been a member—a not very faithful one, I am afraid—of the Committee that has been considering this question. It became clear to me from the start that we could not continue, or rather repeat the procedure after the last war and build another little Gothic cross in every village square. The ones erected last time were almost constructed on a pattern, and all over the country, in town and village, we know the war memorial when we see it, because we have seen a thousand others exactly like it. I am not condemning the war memorials of the last war; most of them were artistically inoffensive, and they gave great pleasure to the citizens. But surely two such memorials in every town and village would be absurd. Even the great memorials cannot be repeated. I do not suppose, for instance, that the Government contemplate another Cenotaph in London, and the superb and moving monument in Edinburgh Castle must stand alone.

This time, then, we are obliged to think of something different, and it was the realization of that fact which prompted the noble Lord to establish the very useful Committee which has now issued its report. It is not going to be so easy as last time; there will be no general pattern to follow and an effort of the imagination will be required, which is not easy for people in this country. I hope that those who are faced with the problem will feel that what is asked of them is to do something that would have pleased the dead who loved the place and would have delighted to adorn it. In almost every town and village there is something that it has always needed and has never been able to obtain. A good many of the speakers this afternoon seem to assume that because it is the duty of the State to produce these things therefore they are going to get them; but the experience of mankind has proved over and over again that, however much it has been the duty of the State to produce these things, it does not in fact produce them. Therefore I hope that that argument will not carry weight with people. There are other reasons, of course, why the things that are needed are not obtained. Often they are very expensive, and frugal people feel that it is wrong in a necessitous world to lay out luxuries for themselves. For one reason or another, therefore, the one delightful acquisition about which everybody in the place has talked and dreamed, is never made. The war memorial provides the excuse and the opportunity.

Take London itself. We all know that the Charing Cross bridge ought to be pulled down; every plan for London advocates its removal. Sir Patrick Abercrombie knocks daily at the doors of the Treasury, over which are written the fateful words "Can we afford it?" But what a superb war memorial a new and noble bridge in that place would make, with four towers at its entrances on which to record the deeds and deaths that have made London so glorious in this war. But every place would have its own fancy: here a civic theatre or a concert hall; there a community centre; and in the country town or village the church that needs repair, or the historic building that could be reconditioned for modern uses. Local conditions and opportunities, local taste will decide these things, but there is always something to inspire the imagination. The open space, the area of natural beauty—should there be any left after the war—can be preserved, and the town's Sunday afternoon walk, the village recreation ground, things that would be familiar to, and beloved by, the dead soldiers and are part of the meaning of the word "home" to all the generations, seem to be the natural objects of commemoration. I remember in an Italian hill town walking out to see the sunset from a grove of young trees where the people collected in the evening to look across a wide view. Every tree in that grove was marked with the name of a dead soldier. We are told that here little boys would deface them, but if they do, it is largely because of the example that is set them. This morning as I drove along the Fair Mile into Henley I saw the local authority engaged in defacing that noble avenue of elms. It is, I think, one of the principal advantages of these proposed memorials that theft sacredness would protect them against naughty boys and against still naughtier Governments.

I hope that the noble Earl who is going to answer for the Government will not tell us that he has no powers to do any of these things. It is above all things fortunate that he has no powers because if he had he would probably use them badly, regimenting everybody into monotonous reproduction. This "no powers" argument might carry weight in another place, where they are accustomed to hav- ing powers. Your Lordships for a long time have not had any powers, but you have had influence. And it is their influence that we wish the Government to use. I know two or three clever young men in the Ministry of Town and Country Planning who could, if they were allowed to do so, write an inspiring and eloquent memorandum on this subject, and their advice, if circulated to the local authorities, would have a great influence on the people who, in each locality, will ultimately decide what is to be done.

Before I finish I should like to say that I am not entirely on the side of the speakers this afternoon who tried to draw a distinction between the utilitarian and the spiritual objective in these things, because it seems to me that a thing of beauty is never utilitarian and has always its spiritual side. I hope the Minister will consent to allow his Ministry to "propagand" the views of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chatfield; that, in fact, just for once, the Ministry will try to persuade instead of adopting their usual policy of ordering people about. For there can be no doubt that we have a great opportunity for carrying out long-delayed and valuable improvements which will not otherwise be made, and, at the same time, erecting monuments to those whom we have lost of which we know in our hearts they would approve.

4.20 p.m.


My Lords, I think it is evident from the number of noble Lords who have taken part in our discussion this afternoon that the Motion made by the noble and gallant Admiral of the Fleet has aroused unusual interest. I think I am right in saying that nearly every speaker has expressed his personal views on what should constitute a suitable type of memorial to commemorate those who have either died on the field of battle or have lost their lives at home due to enemy action. But whatever their views may be, it is quite clear and certain that all memorials, of whatever sort, which are erected after the war is over, must worthily commemorate those who have given their lives.

The noble and gallant Admiral in the course of his observations explained to your Lordships that the War Memorials Advisory Council was set up in April, 1944, by the President of the Royal Society of Arts, who took the initiative in calling together interested societies and public bodies to discuss generally the subject of suitable projects for future war memorials. The Council was, if I may say so, ably presided over by my noble friend. It was not an official body, nor, indeed, was it responsible to Government. It published a report last October which did, as the noble and gallant Lord pointed out, receive a very wide circulation, and it is that report which, as I understand it, is the main subject of my noble friend's Motion.

Now it seems to me that memorials can roughly be placed in three categories. First, there is the national war memorial, erected either in this country or overseas, and I think it would be premature for us to discuss that question before the end of hostilities. But when the war is over, the whole subject of commemoration, in all its aspects, can be reviewed by the Government of the day. Indeed, the Council, in their report, submitted no recommendation for a national war memorial, but they did support in principle a suggestion made by the War Memorials Conference. But, as I say, it will in any case be for the Government of the day to decide the memorial or memorials most applicable in the circumstances, and then they will no doubt take into account a number of suggestions which have been made this afternoon—whether we should have a garden of memory, whether Trafalgar Square should be redesigned, whether a new Charing Cross bridge should be erected or whether an additional All Souls College should be built in Oxford. I hope, therefore, the House will forgive me if I do not go into all those interesting suggestions which have been made in the course of the discussion, but I shall most certaintly draw the attention of the Minister of Works and other Ministers who are principally concerned, to the various individual suggestions that have been made.

Secondly, there is the Service unit or regimental memorial which is erected by private subscription, and I understand that this matter is now under consideration. But the regiments will certainly benefit from the views which have been set out so plainly in the noble and gallant Lord's report. Lastly, there is the local memorial, raised to commemorate all in the district who gave their lives for the cause. It is, I think, to this category that Lord Chatfield's report mainly refers, and the suggestions which are contained therein are a guide to those local committees who will be acting for towns or villages, schools or other institutions.

I do not think it is necessary or, indeed, desirable that His Majesty's Government should specify or elaborate what reallly constitutes a worthy and proper memorial. In fact, I could picture, and I have no doubt your Lordships could too, considerable opposition if the Government should endeavour to lay down a hard-and-fast rule to be followed by all these local committees. I can see opposition arising in many areas if the Government suggested that a certain city was to have a new bridge, or a certain village was only to erect an obelisk, or a certain town was to provide itself with additional playing fields. As we see it, there are certain areas which have suffered severe loss of life or damage, which may decide upon a very different form of memorial from those areas which have suffered slightly or not at all. Circumstances must vary materially in other directions as well. Therefore it seems to us that it is proper, in the words stated in the report, that local committees should retain full freedom to express the sentiments of the community or organization for whom they act.

Perhaps I might now turn for a few moments to deal with the Advisory Council's report, for there is much substance in many of its suggestions, some of which may not be appropriate in every case but all of which can certainly be considered by local committees in the light of local circumstances. Nevertheless, it may be that some local committees will launch projects which are not mentioned in the Advisory Council's report. I am glad to see that the report has moved far away from the idea commonly prevailing at the end of the last war, that memorials of stone or statuary, often of a standardized or, as Lord Esher said, of a patterned type, were the only form of suitable memorial. I have myself criticized these mounds of stone in the past, but I do appreciate that occasionally monuments of dignity, beauty and simplicity may well recall more lasting memories of fallen friends than a multitude of utilitarian memorials. The report contains wide proposals, including the possibility of developing social projects as a permanent enrichment of the neighbourhood and as a lasting memorial. It does, however, leave, as I think it must leave, to individual committees the right to choose and select the memorial which is best suited to their own particular needs. There will, I venture to think, be general agreement with the Council's views that any memorials which are put up should not perhaps take the shape of facilities for which national or local government normally provides. But I would suggest that while these local committees should not altogether rule them out, they nevertheless should not be too rigid in their application of the rule or suggestion which is laid down in the report.

Now I have selected only a few of what seem to me the more important paragraphs in the report. The Government have naturally a deep interest in all the suggestions contained in it and they are certainly anxious, without limiting the freedom of choice of any local committee, that advice should be available to them. A report such as that of my noble friend steers public opinion into its proper channels and provides a statement of principle which I believe will command general approval and sympathy. For both voluntary bodies and local committees the report as I see it will prove to be a valuable guide and it will assist them in the deliberations that they may be called upon, very soon now, to undertake.

Before I conclude I should like with all deference to make some suggestions which may be helpful to these committees. They are observations which have been formed over a period of time by those who have been associated with war memorials for many years. These committees when they are set up should be fully representative and should keep constantly in touch with local opinion and thought. They should reflect with great care before endorsing any particular project and make quite certain that their final choice meets with general approval locally. Then they can set out to seek the best advice possible to bring their proposal into being, and it is here that the report gives them most helpful encouragement. Moreover, it will be wise (and this should not be forgotten) to provide sufficient funds for permanently endowing these memorials, for it has happened in the past when those person- ally interested in a particular memorial are no longer with us, neglect steps in and the monument decays and the whole project languishes.

I feel quite certain that the valuable contribution which has been made in this debate will receive full publicity and will be considered by these local committees. I have no doubt whatever that Lord Chat-field's report will be of great value both to the local committees which will be formed and to noble Lords who are taking part in our discussion to-day. At the same time I feel quite certain that the views which have been expressed by noble Lords will equally be of great assistance to the noble and gallant Admiral. If further reports are published, as I certainly hope they will be, dealing with matters that have been mentioned in the discussion to-day which do not find their place in the original report, then my noble friend will certainly have rendered very valuable additional assistance to us all. I would mention in conclusion that there are no Papers which can be laid, but I am prepared on behalf of the Government to give general support to the report of the War Memorial Advisory Council I hope that with that assurance the noble and gallant Admiral will see his way to withdraw his Motion for Papers.

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, I am most grateful to Lord Munster, speaking for His Majesty's Government, for what he has said and for the sympathetic manner in which he has dealt with my Motion. I greatly appreciate that, as I also appreciate the support that we have had from many members of your Lordships' House. Many most useful suggestions have been made which we as a Council shall take into consideration at our next meeting. I was particularly interested in the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Denham, about the value of combination as affecting memorials in small localities. That is a point we should certainly stress and it is something which can be much developed by Lords-Lieutenant of counties who can in their counties consider whether they can bring about groupings of the kind suggested. I was much interested also, if I may say so, in the suggestion mace by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, that one of the possibilities of a London memorial would be to beautify Trafalgar Square. I may say that in 1920 I myself put forward a similar suggestion but the Office of Works expressed the opinion that any alteration of Trafalgar Square would spoil its combination architecturally with the National Gallery, so it could not be approved. I did not feel that on this occasion it was right for me to make that suggestion as President of a body of such a very broad character. I certainly withdraw my Motion for Papers and in doing so I wish to say that I am most grateful to the Government for the support they have given us. We shall now be able at the Council to move forward on a firmer footing, assured that what we are doing not only has the general support of His Majesty's Government but of your Lordships' House as expressed in tile debate this afternoon. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.