Basil Webb Memorial by Sir William Goscombe John. Installed in 1924, and made of Penarth alabaster, this altar and reredos are to be found at the east end of the crypt in Hereford Cathedral. They constitue a memorial to Second Lieutenant Basil Webb (1898-1917), who was killed in action on 1 December 1917 at the age of 19, during the battle of Cambrai. The Dean of Hereford explains:

In the action 57 men, including all but one of the officers were killed by machine gun barrage as they crested a ridge, moving towards Gonnelieu. Basil Webb was buried in Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery. Basil Webb’s father was Sir Henry Webb, 1st baronet, a liberal MP who during WW1 raised and commanded the 13th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment and the 14th Battalion Worcestershire regiment. Basil was his only son. As a memorial he engaged the architectural firm of Caroe and the famous Welsh sculptor Sir William Goscombe John RA to design and make the memorial. The sculptor was known to the family, as Basil Webb had been the model for Goscombe John, when he produced the bronze sculpture "The Boy Scout" in 1910. At the age of 12 Basil also composed the Refectory Prayer for Chester Cathedral, which remains in use today.

The reredos is in the form of a triptych with two plain arcades and a central panel lettered underneath "Gloria in Excelsis Deo et in Terra Pax — Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace." The central panel contains 3 figures — a Roman soldier on the left (a portrait of Basil Webb himself) with St Michael in the centre, and St Ethelbert on the right (holding a model of Hereford Cathedral).

The story behind this unusual memorial is a poignant one; the spot now serves as a focus for remembering the vast numbers of young men who have lost their lives so tragically early in warfare.

Photographs by Colin Price, text and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you credit the photographer and link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.]

Related Material

Bibliography

Tavinor, the Very Reverend Michael. "A Letter from the Dean of Hereford" (all the details at the beginning, as well as the long quotation, come from this source).


Created 21 November 2019