Alrewas: RNR/RAR Memorial

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The above memorial at the National Arboretum is dedicated to the Rhodesia Native Regiment and the Rhodesia African Rifles Regiment. This beautiful monument honours those who served in the Rhodesia Native Regiment – some 195 men fell in East Africa in the Great War (1916-1919). A total of 311 officers and men serving with the Rhodesian African Rifles fell during campaigns in World War Two, Burma 1944 – 1946, Egypt 1952, Malaya, Nyasaland 1959, Northern Rhodesia/Katanga Border 1961, Rhodesia 1966-1979, Zimbabwe Rhodesia 1979 – 1980 and Zimbabwe 1981. The memorial was designed to represent part of the Great Zimbabwe Ruins which were built in the 14th century and are now a World Heritage Site. The ruins were re-discovered by Europeans in the late 19th century near Masvingo in Zimbabwe. The memorial was unveiled on 19th July 2015 by The Marquess of Salisbury, President of the Rhodesian African Rifles Regimental Association.

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Alrewas: Ulster Ash Grove

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Located at the end of Millennium Avenue at the National Arboretum is the Ulster Ash Grove. Planted as a living tribute to the members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC, the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve, the Armed Forces and other organisations in the service of the crown, the monument is dedicated to all those who lost their lives during the troubles in Northern Ireland between 1969 and 2001. The weeping ash trees planted within the grove represent the lives lost in pursuit of peace and form a changing backdrop to the stone circle and Mourne granite pillar.

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The circle contains one block of stone quarried from each of the six counties (Down, Armagh, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Londonderry & Antrim) and are placed to form a symbolic map of Northern Ireland. The Ulster Grove memorial was dedicated on 23rd September 2003 – the anniversary of the death of the first soldier in 1969.

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Alrewas: The Bevin Boys Memorial

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Located along Millennium Avenue at the National Arboretum stands the Bevin Boys Memorial. With only three weeks stock available, the country faced a crisis in coal production in 1943 which put our country’s ability to win the Second World War in jeopardy. The Prime Minister Winston Churchill charged Ernest Bevin, his Minister of Labour and National Service, to increase coal production. As a result, it was decided that one in ten men conscripts drafted to serve in the armed forces would work underground in British coal mines. The Bevin Boys, as they came to be known, undertook unskilled manual jobs to release more experienced miners to move on to coal production at the coal face. The memorial is dedicated to the essential and dangerous role of the 48,000 Bevin Boys.

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Created in stone from a quarry near Kilkenny, the rough surface of the memorial resembles the natural dark grey colour of coal, especially when wet. The Bevin Boys Memorial Project was funded by contributions from several councils and many individual private donors including the Bevin Boys Association and the Bevin Boys Association Reunion Group.

Corbridge: Head of Sol

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Alongside the worship of Jupiter, the cult of Jupiter Dolichenus merged the Roman god Jupiter with an all powerful sky god that originated in Asia Minor. Co-existing with the worship of Jupiter alone, there was also other merged versions of Jupiter that were popular throughout the Roman army. Several reliefs from a temple to Jupiter Dolichenus have survived having been used in later Roman work. Including a frieze of Sol, the above deeply incised panel formed part of the decorative iconography of the temple. The third century relief of the sun god was found reused as a floor slab in the east granary (Hodgson, 2015). The god was reputedly introduced in Rome by the first Sabine king Titus Tatius at the same time as that of the Moon (Grimal, 1991). There were three religions that were widely practiced in the Roman Empire. The mysteries of Mithras, the god of light and truth, originated from Persia, the worship of the Egyptian goddess Isis, goddess of fertility, and the third was the worship of Atargatis – known as Dea Syria. This Syrian goddess was originally an earth mother whose cult was especially popular with soldiers. Shrines have been found in Rome and as far away as Hadrian’s Wall and she was associated with the Roman Jupiter. Worshipped in wild rituals, Atargatis was often depicted with her consort Jupiter Dolichenus who was portrayed standing upon the back of a bull (Morford, Lenardon & Sham, 2011). The beautiful carving above shows the head of Sol with his radiating nimbus (halo) behind his head and his whip (for driving the sun-chariot) set over his left shoulder. Although not typically classical, the dramatic style shows that the worship of the Syrian god was spread wide across the entire empire and celebrated at Corbridge.

Durham: Neptune Statue

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In Market Place in Durham centre stands the impressive heroic figure of Neptune. The life size lead statue depicts the bearded figure standing over a dolphin and raising his trident as though to strike. The beautiful sculpture is surmounted upon a corniced column of sandstone and now stands in its original site thanks to an appeal fund organised by the Durham Trust. The statue was originally given to the city in 1729 by George Bowes of Gibside and represents Durham’s link to the sea. The sculpture was restored in 1986 and following its move to Wharton Park, Neptune was returned to its current location in May 1991.

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In classical mythology Neptune was the Roman god identified with Poseidon. As one of the twelve Olympians (Iliad 15. 187-192), Neptune ruled over the waters (Metamorphoses 13. 854-858) and was originally a freshwater divinity who acquired his attributes from Greek mythology. The first historians, who wrote in Latin, were familiar with Greek mythology and many of the Roman legends are adaptations that stem from Greek myths. The Olympian Neptunus was equated with Poseidon, one of the twelve principle Roman gods, by the poet Ennius. Although the development of railway transport improved links with the city and the coast, Durham had aspired to be linked to the sea via the river Wear. As such, the personification of water was erected to symbolize Durham’s ambitions.

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Durham: Light Infantry War Memorial

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Located in Market Place in Durham centre stands the above war memorial. Honouring the Durham Light Infantry regiment, the bronze sculpture of a soldier symbolises the moment after the infantry buglers sounded the ceasefire in Korea in 1953. The sculpture is set upon a white stone plinth featuring the regimental badge and bears a dedication to all those who served in the regiment. A quotation on the rear of the plinth from Montgomery of Alamein reads “There may be some regiments as good but I know of none better.” The monument was unveiled in September 2014 and is the work of Edinburgh artist Alan Herriot.

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Corbridge: Hercules & The Hydra

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Hercules is the latinized form of the Greek Heracles who Homer describes in the Odyssey: “I saw mighty Heracles – his ghost, but he himself delights in feasting among the immortal gods, with fair-ankled Hebe for his wife” (Homer, Odyssey 11.601-603). Hercules was a Greek hero, son of Zeus and exemplar of strength and patience. Such a diverse character attracted a variety of interpretations and uses. His virtues became significantly used by the moralists and philosophers to whom he became a model of unselfish fortitude, labouring for the good of mankind and achieving immortality by his virtue (Morford, Lenardon & Sham, 2011). He was especially important as a paradigm of virtue in Roman Stoicism who set high value on the Heraclean qualities of endurance and self-reliance. The iconography of Hercules was firmly established by the Archaic period with the major identifying symbols of the lion skin cape and hood, his club and his bow and arrows. The geographical distribution of his cult was as wide as his legends and Hercules was adopted by individuals or states as a symbol or protecting deity (Hornblower & Spawforth, 2004). The above relief was found in the west Principia strongroom and depicts the second of Hercules’ Twelve Labours which made him a hero in both the Greek and Roman worlds. A natural patron of emperors and soldiers struggling on behalf of the empire, the carving show Hercules attacking the Hydra (a serpent with snake-headed tentacles, mainly lost but one tentacle is around the demi-god’s forearm). His patroness, the goddess Minerva, stands on the left watching over him. The west Principia was a headquarters building which was divided by arches onto three bays, each entered by one of three doors in the facade. The shrine from the Principia was packed with brightly coloured altars, statuary and standards with the above panel forming one of a series (Hodgson, 2015).