The Folkestone War Memorial, by the sculptor F. V. Blundstone

Allegorical figure on the Folkestone War Memorial, by F. V. Blundstone.

The War Memorial in Folkestone, Kent, is a particularly important memorial as so many WWI soldiers left for the front from that port. It is made up of a tall stone plinth, with flanking low wings bearing panels inscribed with the names of the soldiers who died in World War I, and a central panel with a military scene. On the summit is a large bronze figure of an allegorical girl – more than one guidebook refers to her as an angle, but she has no wings or heavenly attributes. She holds a tall flagpole with a cross at the top, and the Union Jack at half mast, swirling around the pole and against her body. Her other arm, the hand at shoulder level, holds a large wreath, so that it has somewhat of the aspect of a round Hoplite shield. The figure therefore combines its attributes of Peace – the cross, flag and wreath – with an overall silhouette of a warrior armed for battle.

She is semi-draped, wearing a light skirt and an open cloak with embroidering at the edges, falling down in graceful folds to the ground; the whole of her attire is light enough and close enough to her body and legs that it avoids bulking out her feminine shape. Her upper torso, shoulders and arms have a certain muscularity appropriate for the subject. Her head, with its short hair confined by a headband, and solemn expression and downcast eyes, gives a distinctly Art Nouveau Edwardian feel to the monument – see the picture above, the head somewhat spookily framed by a satellite dish halo. Who is this figure? A page from the Folkestone Express newspaper in 1922, when the statue was unveiled, which is on the website of the Folkestone and District Local History Society, quotes the Chair of the War Memorial Committee, Sir Stephen Penfold, explaining that the figure is ‘symbolic of Motherhood and Reverence…[and] immortalises the highest bonds of love between the dead and the living.’

Commemorative panel, also by Blundstone.

The plaque on the front of the plinth bears a sculpture in low relief showing rank upon rank of marching soldiers, with their commander sitting hunched on his horse in front, and in the background the great battleships ready to go off to fight. There is an inscription underneath, and a second plaque below records a dedication to those perishing in World War II.

The sculptor of both figure and sculpted plaque was F. V. Blundstone, not a particularly well-known sculptor today, but who made several war memorials including the one at the Holborn Prudential Building in London.

The position of the Folkestone War Memorial, on the Road of Remembrance, by the eastern end of the Leas, was apparently the route taken by the thousands of soldiers marching through the town down to the port to embark for the Continent. Despite the tall, grim concrete buildings flanking the road on either side, symbols of a bleak and ugly utilitarianism, the siting of the memorial on a wide road on a roundabout, and its height of the figure above the ground – perhaps 25ft to the top – allow it to hold its own.

This page was originally part of a 'sculpture of the month' series, for August 2013. Although the older pages in that series have been absorbed within the site, if you would wish to follow the original monthly series, then jump to the next month (September 2013) or the previous month (July 2013). To continue, go to the bottom of each page where a paragraph like this one allows you to continue to follow the monthly links.

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