Sir Edwin Lutyens was first approached informally by Sir Alfred Mond who was the First Commissioner of Works in the government of David Lloyd George, this was in June 1919. Lutyens was asked to design a memorial for the Peace Parade which was to be held on July 19 th 1919. Constructed within about two weeks the memorial was made of wood and plaster, it was unveiled on 18th July and was originally intended to stand for a week. Its extraordinary popularity extended this to January 1920 when the weather finally forced its removal. SIR ALFRED MOND SIR EDWIN LUTYENS Photographs source: Wikipedia
PEACE MARCH - LONDON JULY 19th 1919. The parade was led by the senior service, the Royal Navy, Admiral Beatty proudly led his men past the Cenotaph and saluted the Glorious Dead. PICTORIAL MONTAGE OF OLD POSTCARD PHOTOGRAPHS Peace Parade, July 19 th 1919 www.royalmunsterfusiliers.org
Reported in the Times one day later: Standing in the centre of Whitehall, the memorial was most impressive, with its summit crowned by a great laurel wreath, holding in place a Union Jack that was draped loosely above the monument. The sides were adorned with the White Ensign, the Red Ensign and the Union Jack representing the Navy, the Mercantile Marine, and the Army. On the steps were a number of tiny home-made wreaths and humble garden flowers, placed there by loving hands. A very pathetic instance occurred just before the arrival of the procession. A lady, richly attired in the deepest mourning, emerged from the crowd. Silence immediately fell upon the huge assemblage. Slowly advancing to the Cenotaph, she reverently laid a beautiful wreath at its base. She remained for a few moments with head bowed in sorrow and pride before again disappearing among the people. www.aftermathww1.com Peace Parade, July 19 th 1919
It was the Cenotaph which most captured the public imagination during the victory celebrations, and after the parade many of the bereaved laid wreaths there. www.roll-of-honour.com
George V laying the first wreath, 11th November 1919. www.roll-of-honour.com
Meanwhile, realising its extraordinary popularity, a more permanent memorial was commissioned. Drawings were presented by Lutyens based on his previous design. The final design was based on measurements of the Parthenon. In the classical manner, all the surfaces were subtly curved; the verticals would meet at a point 1000 feet above the ground and the horizontals, 900 feet to the side. Made of Portland Stone and stripped of all literal elements, the simplicity and dignity of the monument became the immediate focus for national grief. The finished design for the Cenotaph on Whitehall, London. To the left the Cenotaph is shown from the front, with the design for the side on the right of the composition. Between these two designs is a two dimensional depiction of the structure. www.iwm.org.uk
THE PERMANENT CENOTAPH In 1920 the newly built Cenotaph was the centrepiece of the ceremony on 11 th November 1920, At eleven o'clock - "the eleventh hour" - as Big Ben began to chime, the King turned to face the Cenotaph and released the flags veiling the monument. As the chimes died away, everyone fell silent for two minutes, and the Last Post sounded. www.iwm.org.uk
THE UNKNOWN WARRIOR Also on the morning of 11 th November the body of the Unknown Warrior was drawn to the Cenotaph on a gun carriage pulled by six black horses, there were twelve distinguished pallbearers, including Douglas Haig, David Beatty and John French. Many of those who lined the streets watching the procession pass, had been waiting all night. The solemn journey continued down Whitehall to Westminster Abbey where the nave was lined by recipients who had been awarded the Victoria Cross. The Royal Family had pride of place, but the congregation was primarily composed of widows and mothers who had lost sons. The service was brief and according to one newspaper report at the time, 'the most beautiful, the most touching and the most impressive this island has ever seen....' www.iwm.org.uk
Sir Edwin Lutyens died on New Year's Day in 1944, his wishes were: should the Cenotaph be adopted as a national memorial for the dead of the Second World War, nothing further should be added to the structure, other than the inscribing on it of the appropriate dates of the war.
At the commencement of the ceremony on 10 th November 1946, King George VI unveiled the dates MCMXXXIX (1939) and MCMXLV (1945) which had been inscribed on the upper portions of the east and west faces. Source: google.com Princes Elizabeth laying a wreath at the Cenotaph 1946 www.tumblr.com
Montreal Gazette, 11 th November 1946 and sourced through google.com
THE DATES OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR! MCMXXXIX (1939) and MCMXLV (1945) inscribed on the upper portions of the east and west faces.
Each year, on the Sunday closest to November 11 th Armistice, or Remembrance Day, a service is held at the Cenotaph in honour of British and Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two World Wars as well as later conflicts. Attended by the British royal family, political and religious leaders, as well as representatives from the armed forces, the service has not changed greatly since its introduction: it features the singing of hymns, an offering of prayers and the observation of the two-minute silence, Perhaps the most moving part of the Ceremony comes towards the end once all the dignitaries have left and when members of the waiting and watching public file past and lay their flowers and notes in remembrance of the loved ones that fell in battle over the years. Their tribute is accompanied musically by the Band of the Royal Marines who play hymns and tunes of the First World War as the procession continues. THE NATION REMEMBERS! Source: FAABA