Today's blog is by Amy Miller, Curator of Decorative Arts & Material Culture. On Armistice Day we will be temporarily re-installing the War Memorial which stood in the old Royal Hospital School. There will also be a parade where students of the modern school and members of the public will be joined by artist Rozanne Hawksley, who has created her own poignant memorial to those who lost their lives in war.
On Tuesday 11 November, pupils from the Royal Hospital School, in Suffolk, will travel to the original site of their School in Greenwich, London. They take with them six oak boards naming 151 former pupils who attended the School between 1889 and 1918 and lost their lives during WW1. These boards make up a former War Memorial measuring 13ft by 6ft, which originally hung in the Great Hall of The Queens House. It was installed in 1919 to remember those boys who had lived and trained on the site of Royal Museums Greenwich. The shadow of it may still be seen in the plaster of the east wall of the Great Hall.
The procession will also include a very personal memento, a bugle belonging to Charles Timmins, the youngest boy listed on the memorial, who was a 14-year-old bugler aboard HMS Cardiff. He died in 1917 at the battle of Heligoland when a piece of shrapnel blew a hole in his ship’s funnel and pierced his bugle.
The temporary re-installation of the memorial will be part of a ceremonial parade with the students and the artist Rozanne Hawksley who has created a dramatic memorial to the unknown sailor in the Queen’s House. It is meant to be a space for thought and reflection on themes of memorialization, mourning and loss. She considers the impact of war and the idea that there are no ‘unknown combatants,’ but that every death has a ‘ripple effect’ on family, friends and ultimately, nation.
Rozanne Hawksley’s work is moving and powerful and it can also be very challenging. It is a way of allowing visitors to make a strong emotional connection to the legacy of the First World War, particularly as it has moved out of the realm of living memory.
Rozanne has also had a very personal experience of war – she was a child evacuee in the Second World War, and her piece Flossie and Me, on display in the northeast parlour, is about that experience – of separation, loss and uncertainty. It includes her child’s gas-mask with a hair ribbon on its strap reflecting one of her worries as she left her family in Portsmouth for Wiltshire – who would tie her hair ribbon for her?
In addition to this new commission, we are also showing the artist’s earlier works in the northeast parlour and cabinet room, which include ‘Seamstress and the Sea’ a series about Rozanne’s maternal grandmother, Alice Hunter, a widow who sewed sailor’s collars for a living from WWI until her death during WWII; and ‘Prisoner’ one of her bleakest and most disturbing statements on the legacy of war.
Rozanne Hawksley: War and Memory closes on 16 November 2014, it is the Contemporary Arts strand of programming around First World War commemorations. It sits alongside War Artists at Sea which is also in The Queen’s House and the Forgotten Fighters Gallery at the National Maritime Museum.