The Louverval Memorial commemorates over 7000 who were men killed in The Battle of Cambrai in 1917 and have no known grave. One of the most striking features of the memorial are two sculptured panels by Charles Segeant Jagger. Both are cross sections of a trench. In the first the bottom of the trench is littered with equipment and a soldier kneels, looking over the parapet through a periscope. Men are running above him, striding over the trench carrying rifles with fixed bayonets and it is obvious that an attack is taking place, though only their legs can be seen. One has been hit and, as he falls into the trench beneath him, Lewis gun magazines fall from his grasp and a revolver drops from his hand. Lewis gunners carried a revolver as opposed to a rifle and this kind of detail is typical of Jagger’s work.
The second panel depicts stretcher bearers struggling to remove a casualty from a trench. Again the detail of the sculpture is typical of Jagger: the petrol cans on the trench floor, the men’s webbing, the sole of a boot. The portrayal of the injured man is, though, the most striking feature of the sculpture. He has a fractured leg and a rifle has been used as a splint. A stretcher bearer’s hands express the care with which the injured man is being moved, yet the observer is in no doubt as to the man’s agony as his hand grips the side of the stretcher.
Jagger was born near Rotherham in Yorkshire and was the son of a colliery manager. He attended The Sheffield Royal Grammar school and at 14 was apprenticed as a metal engraver, before going on to attend The Sheffield College of Art and The Royal College of Art in London. In September 1914 he enlisted in The County of London Artists Rifles, and in May 1915 was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant , serving in The Worcestershire Regiment. He was wounded at Gallipoli and, after convalescence in England, served from 1917 to 1918 on the Western front with the 2nd Worcesters. He was wounded again in April 1917 and was awarded the Military Cross.
Jagger was greatly influenced by The New Sculpture Movement of the late 19th century, which emphasised naturalistic representation of the human body. His war memorial sculptures are in contrast to the great majority which were created after the war, in their realism and in depicting the suffering of the men and the cost of victory. Perhaps the most well known of these is the Royal Artillery memorial at Hyde Park corner. As with many of the leading poets, Jagger was certainly not anti war, but believed that large numbers of those at home did not appreciate the suffering of the troops at the front. When Jagger received the printed order of service for the dedication of his memorial on Paddington Station, which put the initials R.B.S. (Royal British Society of Sculptors) after his name, he wrote to The Great Western Railway and asked that the initials M.C. be added. He wrote, “I value the Military Cross more than any Art Decoration it is possible to gain”.
The Paddington Station memorial (above) depicts a soldier, wearing a greatcoat across his shoulders and an unmilitary scarf against the cold, reading a letter from home.
Detail (above) from the Royal Artillery memorial.
We visit The Louverval Memorial on our tour, The Battles of 1917-1918. For further details click here.