(These essays in the “Names on a Memorial” series are sometimes published on significant days of mourning. The previous post, Comrades in Vietnam and the Somme, was on Martin Luther King’s birthday. February 4 is the birthday of my grandmother Margaret Hardeman Applegate. Her husband and my grandfather, Julian Eugene Applegate, served with the U.S. Marines in WWI at Belleau Wood in France. Severely injured on the first day of battle, he spent the rest of the war in a Parisian hospital. My grandmother met him after he came home.)
The names on the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme in Thiepval are arranged on 16 piers in British Army Order of Precedence. The path among the piers emphasizes Edwin Lutyens’ magnificent architecture and the inspirational view, along a trail of adjacent panels that generally keeps regiment names in proximity. If the names in a regiment encompass two panels, most visitors need only turn a corner or cross an aisle. Thiepval memorializes 163 units; five require three panels to list their missing.
A map of the Memorial shows 16 piers in four rows of four, with two rows to the south, two to the north, and a wide middle aisle with east and west steps leading to the central Stone of Remembrance. The Stone, also designed by Lutyens, is placed in all larger military cemeteries of the British Commonwealth. It looks like an altar and Lutyens wanted to call it that, but his friend James M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan and Wendy, convinced him that Presbyterians would prefer the word “Stone” (Stamp, 2006, p. 78).
The entrance to the Memorial is on the east. The west side features a terrace and a sunset view of the cemetery. The base is approximately 8 feet high, with the panels above at about twice that. The exterior panels on the east and west are viewed from the ground or the terrace, so the highest names are about 24 feet above where the visitor stands. There are no names on the exterior north and south panels. In the interior, you can stand next to the panels and touch the lower names, but many names are too high to reach.
Order of precedence creates a path of names within the Memorial. The piers and faces in path order are listed after this post. Using the map, you can easily follow the trail. It begins at the south side of the front exterior (1A, 8A). Visitors enter the Memorial and walk up to the Stone of Remembrance and down to the west. Cross the main aisle, walk up to the Stone of Remembrance again and down to the east. Exit the Memorial to view the names at the north side of the exterior front (9A, 16A). To get to the next panel (8C), visitors must return to the entrance, crossing one pier and the central aisle and again climbing the first flight of stairs. The interior panels are fully contiguous, leading ultimately to a panel near the front (9C). For the final panels, visitors again walk up to the Stone of Remembrance and down to the west. Exit the Memorial onto the terrace, cross one pier to the north and then walk south along the terrace with the four final panels (13C, 12C, 5C, 4C) to the east and the cemetery view to the west.
This path of names demonstrates decisions of arrangement design. Assuming that Lutyens’s architecture was non-negotiable, the Thiepval arrangement serves three goals: (1) the path should follow order of precedence, (2) the path should keep regiment names together on contiguous panels, and (3) the path should enhance the architecture. The design of 16 piers only allows two of these goals to be fully met. Order of precedence was the priority, so a decision was made between keeping regiment names together or enhancing the architecture.
The designers of the path chose to enhance the architecture. The path begins at the front of the Memorial, includes three walks alongside the Stone of Remembrance, twice exits the Memorial, and ends at the west terrace with a sunset view of the cemetery. In making that decision, the path designers disrupted the names of two regiments.
The Royal Fusiliers of the City of London Regiment are one of the five units with names on three faces of the Memorial piers (9A, 16A, 8C). Their names begin with the second walk along the front exterior of the Memorial. Then visitors must cross one pier, re-enter the Memorial, cross the central aisle and climb the first flight of stairs to get to the third panel. Near the end, the names of the London Scottish 14th Battalion London Regiment (9C, 13C) are disrupted by a third walk along the Stone of Remembrance, completely traversing the Memorial from front to back and arriving at the terrace cemetery view.
As an expert in information arrangement, I, of course, believe that keeping the names contiguous is far more important than admiring magnificent architecture, but a primary skill of arrangement is working within parameters to meet the collection’s goals. The goal of the Thiepval Memorial is to mourn the dead and inspire the living.
Lutyens’ WWI architecture eloquently serves this goal. His Cenotaph at Whitehall in London is inscribed with the years 1914 and 1919 and a simple phrase selected by Rudyard Kipling, “The Glorious Dead.” At Thiepval, the massive size, the Stone of Remembrance, and the stirring view all honor sacrifice in war. By promoting an emotional architectural experience, the path of names contributes to this theme, perhaps inspiring future generations to fight again. And they did fight again. The Cenotaph was later inscribed with the dates 1939 and 1945.
Path of Names at the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, Thiepval (See map: http://battlefields1418.50megs.com/thiepval.plan.JPG)
1A, 8A South front exterior of the Memorial
8D, 7D, 6D, 5D Enter the Memorial, then up the stairs on the south side of the Stone of Remembrance and down the stairs to the west.
12B Cross the central aisle on the west side
11B, 10B, 9B Up stairs on the north side of the Stone and down to the east
9A, 16A Exit to the north front exterior
8C Cross one pier to the south, re-enter the Memorial, continue south across the central aisle, climbing the first flight of stairs
8B, 1D, 1C, 2A, 2D, 2C, 3A, 3D, 3C, 4A, 4D, 5B, 5A, 6C, 6B, 6A, 7C, 7B, 7A Interior of south piers
10A Cross the center aisle to the north
10D, 10C, 11A, 11D, 11C, 12A, 12D, 13B, 13A, 14C, 14B, 14A, 15C, 15B, 15A, 16C, 16B, 9D, 9C Interior of north piers
13C Up the stairs on the north side of the Stone, then down to the west, exit onto the terrace, and cross one pier to the north.
12C, 5C, 4C Walk south along the terrace overlooking the cemetery to the west
(I am grateful to Peter Francis, Media & PR Manager of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, for providing the map and the list of regimental locations on the Memorial.)