The London Cavalry Memorial
In early 1920s London so deep was the desire to commemorate fallen comrades from England and its Empire that only the best sculptor, Adrian Jones, former veterinary surgeon and Army officer was chosen to create the Cavalry memorial. So serious was Adrian Jones about the execution of his work that he argued: ‘The principles first of all say that nothing human or animal of God's creation should be in any way distorted or made a laughing stock of.’
The Cavalry Memorial is not just a memorial to the British Cavalry but it also commemorates the Australian Light Horse and mounted troops from New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. An inscription explains that the Cavalry of the Empire erected the memorial in memory of comrades who gave their lives in the war 1914 – 1919, also the war 1939 – 1945 and on active service thereafter. The Memorial is a focus that remains in the hearts of those whose ancestors served and whose loved ones have seen active service.
The Memorial is a highly symbolic equestrian statue depicting St George in medieval armour holding his sword high having slain the dragon, the enemy. St George’s lance has snapped leaving half still embedded in the body of the dragon. The statue is moulded from guns captured during the First World War and melted down.
The cavalry from the various commonwealth countries is depicted in bas-relief on the plinth beneath the sculpture, suggesting that these mounted servicemen came to help St George, the Patron Saint of England in his battle against evil. As soon as I could make out the rising sun motif on a slouch hat, I knew that the Australian Light Horse was truly incorporated in the memorial. The Memorial was unveiled on 21 May 1924.
Commonwealth military representatives attend the Parade and Service, as it is their act of commemoration which they share with what was once the mother country and is now an ally with whom many of us acknowledge a shared history, even if we don’t always see it from the same point of view.
A few days after the Cavalry Memorial Parade and Service a woman who was visiting from Lebanon asked me if I would take her photo in front of the memorial, explaining that she hated ‘taking selfies’. After I had taken a picture that met her satisfaction, I asked her why she had visited the Cavalry Memorial. She explained she had visited because of war meaning the troubles in the Middle East. I wondered if she was praying to St George in the hope that good would eventually triumph over evil? After the recent spate of terror attacks and the recent bombing in Manchester, I suppose many are asking similar rhetorical questions.
After many years of attending the Cavalry Memorial Parade and Service as an Army wife, this year for the first time I returned to look at the memorial in detail. It had never occurred to me that the Australian Light Horse is commemorated in the heart of London on the Cavalry Memorial in Hyde Park. At long last I have had time to explore its history and its connection with the Light Horse. Each year the service has the same hymns or commemorative lyrics and readings, yet somehow its significance deepens with each passing year. The defence of our nations is an ongoing commitment.