In order to operate as sites of memory, war memorials need to be seen and accessible for private visitors and public ceremonies. Some memorials are also situated with close attention to other locational factors, as well as what components of the landscape they look out over. The location of the Angle war memorial in Pembrokeshire is a palpable example. This blog relates to a recent visit and some notes on the landscape and biographical dimensions of this monument.
Land and Sea
There are a number of key dimensions to the monument’s location:
- Like almost all war memorials outside churches and settlements, the memorial was afforded a roadside location. In this case the memorial is on the west side of the B4319 between Angle to Castlemartin to the north of Broomhill Burrows. Thus, the memorial was provided with an isolated but regularly traversed placement.
- The site is immediately east of a gun emplacement, PRN 14355, consisting of five circular casemates and a rectangular building, suggested to date to the First World War and providing a significant defence of Freshwater West Bay. In one sense, the memorial ties itself into the traces of the conflict in the Pembrokeshire landscape, linked to land and sea although this might be simply coincidence. The Devil’s Quoit Neolithic dolmen isn’t far away but there is no precise association.
- The monument is prominently skylined from Freshwater West Bay, and affords to the visitor a striking vista southwards over dunes, beach and waves. The orientation of the memorial shares this view rather than looking towards the road, apposite for its role in commemorating soldiers and sailors.
When the decision is made to locate war memorials outside settlements in ‘landscape’ situations like this, it is important to think about the memorial’s design, texts and orientations as well as its vistas and spatial relationships with routes and existing military sites.
The Monument and its Biography
This is a fine monument. We are afforded a crucified Christ on top of an octagonal cross-shaft above a two-stepped base, all in a pinkish gritstone. The lowest step is designed as a step, meaning that the monument creates itself as a seat to view outwards from, as well as a focus for remembrance services. Christ therefore looks out to sea, following the orientation of the monument.
There are some biographical elements of note that reveal dimensions of the use of the memorial:
- In addition to the original text, there are traces of contrasting patinas on the stone. I hazard a guess that these reveal the long-term locations of memorial wreaths.
- There are two benches, one with a memorial plaque commemorating its pair of donors, one an engineering firm based in Pembroke Dock, the other Merry Men Films (presumably linked to the filming locations for the Russell Crowe flop Robin Hood)
- The most recent memorial element appears to be a tiny plaque added to the green-painted wooden rail of the steps from the road, commemorating a local Royal British Legion parade marshal.
- There are also contemporary wreaths and deposits of flowers south of the memorial indicating its ongoing use for private and public acts of commemoration. I cannot be sure, but I wonder if the space is being utilised for the disposal of ashes, either for those affiliated to the British Legion or simply because it is such a beautiful spot.
What the Angle First World War memorial reveals about monument biographies is that, even for memorials that are not augmented by plaques to subsequent conflicts, they can still hold biographies of use and reuse that leave both ephemeral and enduring material traces.