War memorials and the “rude” questions they avoid (2/5)

Laurence Tindall continues:

My mother and baby brother survived a bomb near their house. When they were rescued, they walked out down a road lined with cardboard coffins.

Where is her story memorialised in the civic space? Is it too strong to call this a conspiracy of silence? Why is the military story the only story to be venerated? Why is that story so redacted and censored?

Anyone who has had a relative who has been in the front line of battle, or knows someone who has seen the aftermath of a blasted city and experienced the tragedy of refugees, and has bothered to ask those “rude” questions, will know that the reality and truth of war is not there when they look at most war memorials.

But some war memorials do pull the veil away and let us see the truth. Some memorials do engage in storytelling. There is the Kindertransport sculpture by Frank Meisler and Arie Oviada in Liverpool street station.

Kindertransport sculpture in London’s Liverpool Street station

In the city of Liverpool there is the blitz memorial by Tom Murphy, and also the Christmas truce football match by Andy Edwards. These are not particularly great works of art but are great and brave feats of commissioning in the face of our tendency to obscure the reality of war under a construct of bland nothingness.

City of Liverpool Blitz memorial by Tom Murphy

You will, if you work hard, find more examples, but they are far fewer than the thousands of official cenotaphs at the heart of our communities and a thousand more statues to this that and the other person, group or event that have no emotional content whatsoever and no real story to tell.

This is not only an appeal for a little bit of truth but also an appeal for some good art.

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