The Royal Engineers’ Memorial at the Brompton Barracks, Chatham, by Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt. A Grade II* listed memorial arch, this was the first such arch to be erected primarily to commemorate those who died on active service. Built in 1860-61, it carries the names of those Royal Engineers who died in the Crimea. It is made of Portland stone, and the listing text describes it as follows: "Tripartite archway with keyed round arches, enriched frieze, cornice, foliate brackets flanking taller central arch with a raised inscribed parapet." What is remembered here is not victory in war, but the cost of war to those who fought in it. In "Naval and Military Intelligence" on 16 August 1860, before it was quite finished, the Times reported "Both sides of the arch are covered with marble slabs, on which are engraved the names of every officer and man of the Royal Engineers who lost his life in the Crimea. The following inscription is engraved on the architrave:- "The Corps of Royal Engineers to their Comrades who fell in the War with Russia, 1854-5-6.'"
The smaller architectural and sculptural details are also described in the listing text: "Pilaster strips have inset inscribed panels and central roundels, relief figures holding flags to upper spandrels, and coffered soffits." The figures are angels and allegorical figures, and (in an echo of the triumphal arches of classical times, or those of the Napoleonic war) carvings of trophies from the conflict, along with what the Times terms "open laurel-work." The attention to detail and effect, so typical of Wyatt, continues into the upper entablature with its Royal Engineers motto, in Latin, meaning, "Everywhere where right and glory lead."
Note that in its account, the Times gets the name of the sculptor wrong, for which it has to apologize later. The "principal sculptor" was, as it explains on 20 August, the widely known and admired John Thomas. However, it makes no mistake about the firm whose elaborate bronze gates had yet to be afixed: these, as it correctly says, were fashioned from Russian gunmetal by the firm of Thomas Potter and Sons.
Photograph by Patrick Carson, caption and commentary by Jacqueline Banerjee, with many thanks to Patrick for his valuable information. You may use the image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
"Crimean War Memorial Arch and Gates, Brompton Barracks, Pasley Road." Historic England. 13 September 2020.
"Naval and Military Intelligence." The Times. 16 August 1860: 12; August 20: 12. Times Digital Archive. Web. 13 September 2020.
Created 13 September 2020