Winged Symbols and the Great War

The Canadian Pacific War Memorial, Vancouver, B.C. by Montreal sculptor Coeur de Lion McCarthy. Dedicated 1922.

The Canadian Pacific War Memorial, Vancouver, B.C. by Montreal sculptor Coeur de Lion McCarthy. Dedicated 1922. (P. Ferguson photo)

The Angels Among Us Need No Introduction

The great, tragic loss of life during the Great War was unprecedented, never had the world experienced such an unleashing of carnage that took with it a generation of endless possibilities.

After the armistice finding ways to cope with these extraordinary losses took on many forms and symbols of remembrance. Organizations and town leaders struggled to find ways to communicate their community’s loss. Many efforts were channeled towards public memorials that might feature soldiers, simple columns, clocks, plaques, crosses and others. In searching for these reminders of that generation who climbed atop the parapet and careened their way through the mazes of trenches there is one symbol that looms – the angels among us.

Margate War Memorial , England, 1922.  A gathering of the community.

Margate War Memorial , England. A gathering of the community dedicating their chosen memorial, 1922.

Each time I discover another of these winged effigies related to the Great War I am sure to stop. Find the angle, find the light (perhaps the dark), find some meaning, perhaps the ache, reflected in their composition. Highlighted by years of standing vigil perhaps affected by a layer of lichen, soot or exposure to the elements these winged figures seem to willingly struggle – bringing rescue from the carnage heavenwards.

Great War Memorial, Colchester Town, England, 2011.

Great War Memorial, Colchester Town, England. Features the winged figure of Victory (Victoria), a Roman symbol that evolved into Christian angels. (P. Ferguson photo, 2011)

From Vancouver, B.C., to Colchester Town, England, or Zillebeke Churchyard, Belgium you can find them. These representations reflect a time when the church figured far more prominently in people’s lives. One can only imagine the messages from the pulpit made by church leaders announcing their parish’s Great War losses. As I wander about a town alongside the old familiar building of the time, I think upon those who once walked here, spoke here with one and other sharing these losses and how a family’s loss was (and is) carried by a community for generations to come.

Zillebeke Churchyard Cemetery, Belgium. 2007. (P. Ferguson photo)

Zillebeke Churchyard Cemetery, Belgium. 2007. (P. Ferguson photo)

Angels need no introduction. They walk among us, unannounced. They are the angels that exist in every one of us with the sincere hope of goodwill for all – remembering the fallen, remembering the ones that still stand. We can only hope that these angels will not take flight and leave us but return as often as they can, whenever and wherever they can…we need their acts of kindness and strength. In every town there is a place we know…that angels gather here.

Langemark German War Cemetery,  Belgium. Two of the four statues representing mourning and perhaps the angels among us. (P. Ferguson photo 2009)

Langemark German War Cemetery, Belgium. Two of four statues representing mourning and perhaps the angels among us. (P. Ferguson photo 2009)

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


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