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29 October 2014

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So Somerset

David Backhouse with part of the memorial

Somerset sculptor designs Animals in War memorial

Designed by Somerset sculptor David Backhouse, the new Animals in War memorial for London was unveiled by the Princess Royal on Wednesday 24 November.

Inspired by Jilly Cooper's book, Animals in War, and commissioned by The Imperial War Museum, the memorial is a tribute to all the animals that served, suffered, and died in the wars and conflicts of the 20th century.

Eight million horses, as well as countless mules and donkeys died in the First World War alone. One hundred thousand pigeons also served the country, carrying messages to and from the front line.

David Backhouse

One of Britain's most respected sculptors, David Backhouse lives and works in Lullington near Frome.

Animals in War memorial
A design showing how the memorial will look

His career in sculpture spans more than 30 years and his work includes the Cloaked Horseman for Bristol City Centre, Centaurs for Whiteleys in London's Bayswater, The Stream of Life for Central Square in Telford and the Dolphin Family for London Docklands.

He says of his work: "My themes are simple and universal: the interdependency of nature and humanity, and the search for balance and harmony.

"My sculptures are meditations on the human and animal condition in the modern world, reflecting loss and tragedy, hope and delight and above all, tenacity of spirit."

The Animals in War memorial is designed to involve visitors and to attract people to enter the monument in order to become informed about the subject.

The memorial

Animals in War memorial
The memorial will be on Park Lane in London

Constructed in Portland stone and cast bronze, the memorial stands at 58-feet wide and some 55-feet deep.

It is dominated by a 10-feet tall stallion and other bronze statues, including two mules and a dog, standing by the horse.

There'll be inscriptions on both sides of the memorial which includes the name of the monument, information about theatres of war and the numbers of animals lost.

At a cost of £1.4 million, funded by public donations, the memorial will be erected at Brook Gate, Park Lane on the edge of Hyde Park.

You can listen to a feature about the memorial by the BBC's Clinton Rogers by clicking on the audio link at the top of this page.

last updated: 25/11/04
Have Your Say
What do you think about the memorial? Do you like the design?
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Jan Toms
I visited the memorial when writing my book Animal Graves and Memorials and was bowled over by its design. Being able to walk among the beautifully crafted sculptures gives one a feeling of being part of it - let's hope one day we learn how not to conduct war!

Amy Lemlely
Beautiful. The devotion, loyalty, and bravery of these animals, as well as their strength, is so moving. Thanks for reminding us of them.

linda holloway, enfield
A very moving and beautiful Memorial to many the many animals who served so faithfully during war. "They had no choice" is a fitting epitaph to them all.

John Roberts - Wakefield, Yorkshire
This is a marvellous, poignant memorial to those creatures for whom we've turned a blind-eye for too long. Britain started the RSPCA, PDSA and CWF (Compassion in World Farming). We can be a role model for the world. These unsung heroes now have a long-overdue tribute. Animals have dignity, grace and innocence: they do not harm our world like we do. They fully deserve this memorial. I disagree with the utilitarian money-led attitude which says "it is all a waste". Animals are loyal: they never ask, what's in this for me? They deliver unconditional love and devotion. Animals are our friends and companions in life, so they deserve our respect in death.

Experiencing the memorial was a high point for our trip to the UK. Thank you for a far overdue recognition of these noble and innocent creatures!!


i think that the animal memorial in loindon is a fantastic idea and braught a tear to my ete when i visited it. fantastic job a real way for the animal lovers to remember the loayl animals at war.

Elizabeth Organ
I saw this monument for the first time this week and was so impressed by its dignity. I have been in the art world all my life, now running an art gallery, and I felt that there was optimism. This is what public sculpture should be about...uncontentious and honouring a great contribution made by the animals...who had no choice

love it!

r.m. bouineau
Mr. Blackhouse certainly seems to be a gifted and capable sculpture who put love and thought into his monument to the creatures who have served us through the ages. This monument to their enormous contribution and suffering is long overdue. Thank you Mr. Blackhouse and thank you London!

H E Baker
I think the memorial is wonderful, and long overdue.

Daphne Kelman
I have just returned from London where I came across the memorial accidentally. It was so totally appropriate and desperately moving in portraying the suffering and sacrifice made by all animals on our behalf.

margot billington
yes I find it a beautiful memorial...he is so feeling with horses....I am totally besotted with his..."Dancing with Centaurs"...the feature in the fountain in "Whitelys" shopping Centre in Bayswater!

Lee Crossley
Came across the memorial by chance on our way back from the Queen+Paul Rodgers gig in Hyde Park and didn't know what it was, but have since researched the story of it - how very beautiful and moving this memorial is and how poignant a reminder to us all.

Claire Shellis
I was incredibly moved when I spotted it from a passing coach & had to walk back for a proper look. It ranks with the other bid war memorial in St. George's Circus (I think that's where it is - the one with the soldier in waterproof cape with gun, looking down.

francis timmermans
Impressive and beautiful. A most remarkable feature. "They had no choice"... Francis Timmermans Belgium

Florence Weatherburn, Wallsend,Tyne and Wear
While in London two weeks ago saw this statue and was most impressed with it. The carving was so beautifully done you could have imagined the animals could walk away. Very touched by the written words particularly the comment on the bottom right hand side which I think said "they had no option". If this was not the exact words they were something like this. Have thought about thi statue ever since seeing it.

Peter Culpin BSc MA VetMB MRCVS
As a veterinary surgeon I have worked with animals evry working day of my life for the past 27 years. I came upon the memorial by chance and was instantly moved to tears. Animals never hold the thought 'what's in it for me'. No matter what we do they give us unconditional love and devotion. Congratulations to David Backhouse for his amazingly inspirational design. It is the words 'They didn't have a choice' combined with their journey to the other side that makes the memorial so very moving.

Beatrice and Gabriella
Animal’s At War is the most beautiful, moving and compassionate dedication to all the heroic animals that suffered and died and continue to suffer and die at war. Every time we pass by, it breaks our hearts and we hope it touches those who don’t usually consider what animals do for us. Congratulations to David Backhouse and all those who contributed to this magnificent work of art.

Katy Lidster
I love David's work aspecilly about the animal sculptures.I think the war memorial has real potentail and meaning about how animals helped us in the war and then we don't say thanks.But this opens meaning and praise for our animal friends.I also think that now the animal that served in our foolish war can now rest in peace knowing that they are appreceated.

Regina Dreher
I visit London bevor some weeks and I was very very glad to see such a memorial. I like animals soo much and I think, it was time to give them such a great memorial, Regina Dreher from Germany

I saw it on the way back form the Royal Albert Hall. It is beautioful but our driver didn't tell us anyhting about it. I think it was a grat idea, and even though the animals cna't talk, I bet ther eplaesed about this. Animals have been our campoatins since the start of civliazation and saved our lives countless times so its about time they got some well earned recigniton, we always forget our 'animal soilders'

andy treadwell
probably the best sculpture I've seen for many years. I pass it every day on my way to work and it is in an ideal location

Judith Cameron
We've always loved our animals, but this magnificent sculpture shows that we respect, honor and remember them as well. This is a valuable work. I congratulate David Backhouse on his inspiration and all those who have contributed to its realization.

Carol Baxter
I wouldn't mind if animals knew what it was and appreciated they do not I think it is ridiculous to spend money on it, should give it to live animals who need help.

This is a foolish waste of money. Animals are not humans and should not be treated as such. If you must spend money on animals surely an animal charity would be more usefull.

I think this is a wonderful idea and the design superb. Compared to all the money wasted in this country I think the cost for this is of no consequence.

Gillian Eveleigh
I think its wonderful

glynis kenney
I have just seen a photograph of the above memorial in the NZ Herald (Auckland NZ) and I think the idea is just wonderful

April Fletcher
Great design - An interesting reminder of ALL who went to war with out understanding what they were going to face.

Matthew Hurt
Last night a mu-le saved my life Last night a mu-le saved my life on a battlefield

Pam A Concannon
this is very good and is long overdue. The memorial is a beautiful design, remembering all the animals lost in our wars.

Dougie Wood
About time, too!

Sally Mould
Not just war - but the entire history of civilisation is thanks to the horse and we haven't even thanked them..wars, canals, industry, buildings etc etc..another memeorial then is called for.

From the very beginning of the construction of this project I have had small glimpses of its progress. This morning, 24Nov the memorial was fully on view. My sincerest respect and admiration to Mr Backhouse and all those involved. There are so many descriptive words that I can say to describe my feelings. I am overwhelmed with the greatest of respect for Mr Backhouse and his team and the message the memorial represents. Thank you. David Griffith

Anne Mears
I think the design is well thought out and acknowledges the contributions animals of all types made. The cost certainly CAN be justified in my opinion, as it may just educate people that animals too suffered and died - with no choice - during the wars man inflicted on himself, and they deserve to be remembered.

it's a great idea and an interesting design.

Lawrence P Concannon
If we had a better picture I might be able to remark on the design but from what I have seen it looks good. More and most importantly though is the fact there will finally be a memorial for all those animals that lost their lives serving their country - the fact they couldn't appreciate the fact they were serving their country is beside the point. Well done am really please to see they are finally being recognised.

Jon Allen
About time too

Daphne Lewis
Animals enforced contribution needs to be acknowledged.

It looks fine but the cost cannot be justified and I doubt the animals are going to be impressed.

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