Thursday, November 11, 2010

November 11th

Leicester’s war memorial is on the edge of a park just out of the town centre. It was designed By Lutyens who seems to have been the go to guy for war memorials and for 364 days of year it’s a fairly imposing archway sitting at the top of a slight rise with a nice–ish view over the city but on November 11th it has it’s moment. The moment is sunrise because our war memorial is solar aligned – sadly this doesn’t seem to be widely known (I’d hoped to find a picture to illustrate but can’t see any online and don’t have any myself because this is the third year in a row it’s rained). I’ve only managed to catch one sunrise but it was quite an experience and unless it’s actually blowing a gale and raining (today) it’s a good place to be at 7.22 am on a November morning.

At that time of day there’s hardly anyone around – a few dog walkers, people like me on their way to work and a few people on their way home – a good time for reflection and for wondering what it might have felt like at sunrise on November 11th 1918. How can a war end at 11am? How do you go on being at war for those last few hours knowing it’s for nothing very much anymore? Still there’s something hopeful about sunrise – new beginnings and all that, and it strikes me as such a fantastic touch to a memorial – a way of bringing stone to life and making it really demonstrate what all that sacrifice of life might have been for. It’s uplifting without being sentimental and I can heartily recommend it even if it does mean getting up ridicoulously early on cold dark mornings.


  1. Lovely, Hayley. I can imagine this memorial is quite a sight to see - I love the idea of it being illuminated by the sunrise. Quite the tribute!

  2. Hi Hayley,

    It must be a fantastic sight to see the memorial illuminated, but unfortunately in November the odds are pretty much stacked against it.

    You just can't imagine what those last few hours were like can you, but I guess it must be the same anticipation in modern day warfare, knowing you are pulling out of the Falklands or Iraq and just waiting for that last short time to pass.

    We held our silence yesterday, when all the shops closed their doors and we all stood outside, being in a garrison town made it all the more important, but I was amazed that the only people who kept walking past and going about their usual business, were the elderly. It was so noticeable and, I felt disrespectful.


  3. That is so moving Hayley, and now you have me wondering how many more war memorials are designed in this way and without us knowing .

  4. What an interesting post - I didn't know memorials were ever designed like this. The picture tho put me in mind of one of the ones I saw on the WW1 battlefields, I think Thiepval.

  5. Verity, I think the one you is Lutyens as well, he did the cenotaph too, and various other monuments and was a war graves commission architect as well.

    Dovegreyreader - I think it might be quite rare, Lutyens did roughly half a dozen war memorial arches. I don't know if any of the others are solar aligned, but even if they all are it's still not many. The effect though is very moving and feels very appropriate.

    Fiction-books. The two minute silence is an odd thing isn't it? We do it at work as well but the customers can be very odd about it. Two minutes isn't long out the day to pay respects and like you I think it's wrong not to. Hope next year is better!

  6. Just to bring some hope to those who were disappointed about the responce to the 2 minute silence. We had 2 minute silence and a normally busy office of over 100 people fell stoney silent, with every one stopping what they were doing to a man (98% male office). It's quite amasing what the simplest of things can make you feel.
    Well done to Leicester for having such an amasing memorial, looked for pictures of the sunrise as well bit no luck, I'm guessing a clear sun rise in November isn't a very common thing.

  7. Thanks Clover, I've been up at sunrise most days this week and frustratingly wed and fri were clear and sunny, thursday was leaden grey skys howling wind and driving rain. At least it's the stopping to think that matters and not the spectacle (and maybe next year I'll get lucky with the sun again)