About The Statue
The statue at Paddington Station is officially called The Great Western Railway War Memorial, and was commissioned in 1920 to commemorate the employees of the Great Western Railway (GWR) who had died during the First World War. The bronze figure itself was created by the sculptor Charles Sargeant Jagger. The commissioning committee specified, as part of its brief to Jagger, that they wanted a memorial that would evoke the appropriate public emotions of Pride, Sadness and Fondness.
Controversially, Jagger originally wanted the statue to stand at ground level on Platform 1, so that the soldier would have stood at the same level as all the commuters as they waited for their trains. However, this idea was scrapped, possibly because it was felt that this might be too strong an image – as if the dead were re-appearing amongst the living – and the memorial was raised up on a plinth and placed in its current position against the station wall. This position was originally right next to the original entrance of the station, so everyone travelling through Paddington would have passed the statue. Its position right on the platform would also inevitably have reminded contemporary viewers of Paddington Station’s important role in the transporting of troops during the First World War, particularly in connecting London with all of the West Country. In this context, Jagger’s statue is as much “life-like” as it is symbolic – it gave form to very recent memories of both live soldiers and dead ones.
The memorial was unveiled on Armistice Day Saturday 11th November 1922 by Viscount Churchill, two years after the body of “The Unknown Warrior” had been interred with great ceremony in Westminster Abbey. The inscription on the statue was later updated to include Great Western Railway employees who were killed during the Second World War.
The inscription on the plinth now reads:
IN HONOUR OF THOSE WHO SERVED IN THE WORLD WARS. 1914 † 1918 1939 † 1945
3312 MEN AND WOMEN OF THE GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR KING AND COUNTRY. THE NAMES OF THOSE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES ARE INSCRIBED ON A ROLL OF HONOUR DEPOSITED BENEATH THE BRONZE FIGURE.
This roll of honour is hidden inside the plinth in a sealed casket which was made at the GWR’s Swindon Works. It lists the names of all 2,524 employees who died in the First World War. A remembrance service is held each year on 11th November beside the statue.
Some people think that the dark doorway which frames the soldier represents the entrance to a trench dug-out; some people think it represents the entrance to a tomb.
About Charles Sergeant Jagger
(17 December 1885 – 16 November 1934)
Jagger was the son of a colliery manager, and was educated at Sheffield Royal Grammar School. At age 14 he became an apprentice metal engraver with the Sheffield firm Mappin and Webb. After attending the Sheffield School of Art he moved to London to study at the Royal College of Art (1908–11). In 1914 he won the British Prix de Rome, a scholarship for arts students, but instead gave up the prize and enlisted in the army when war broke out. During the war Jagger served in Gallipoli and on the Western Front, and was wounded three times. He was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry.
Although he sculpted a great number of monuments in Britain and around the world, he is mostly known for his war memorials and depictions of conflict. In 1919 he created the horrifying No Man’s Land, which he began while still recovering from war wounds. This low bronze relief presents a stark vision of trench warfare, presented form the point of view of someone who had been part of it. Corpses stranded on barbed wire are ranged across a ravaged landscape, while the solitary live figure of the look-out in the foreground uses them for cover. No Man’s Land is now in the Tate Gallery, London. Jagger’s most famous work is probably the monumental Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner in London. This is topped by an obsessively detailed stone replica of a howitzer, and also features – again, controversially – a realistically depicted and life-size corpse of an infantryman in full uniform, thus breaking the (still largely operational) convention that the British public should be spared any direct representations of dead servicemen either during or after wartime. Jagger’s prevailing attitude in all of his memorials was to create vivid, realistic representations of war, depicting it as hard and dangerous labour.