This sculpture, by Ray Lonsdale, depicts a war-weary Tommy who sits thoughtfully, head bowed, rifle in hand, as he reflects upon the sheer horror of World War One during the first minute after peace was declared in 1918. Entitled 1101 by the sculptor, owing to the fact the armistice went into effect at 11am on November 11, 1918, the sculpture stands 9ft 5ins tall and weighs 1.2 tonnes. Originally lent to Seaham for three months, the townspeople liked what they saw and raised the £80,000+ price within the loan period, re-naming him Tommy. I pass Tommy every morning, Monday to Friday, taking Helen to work and each time I wonder what, exactly, he may have been contemplating.
Was it the horror of war; was it thanks that he had survived the carnage that was WW1, or was it for what reason did the politicians of the day embroil him – and so many others – in a war not of his making.
Probably still alive on 2nd September 1945, I also ponder what he might then have been contemplating. Was it that, like 1918, once again this nation of ours had become embroiled in yet another war with Germany – again not of his making – nor the service personnel of the time. Was it sadness that so many more, both military and civilian, had lost their lives defending their nation; or was it thanks for the lives which had survived.
Were Tommy alive today, what would he have been contemplating? Probably thinking about the millions who had lost their lives defending the independence of their nation, only for politicians of recent times allowing the political independence of the nation to be ceded to a supranational body from which, 98 years after his war, his people had voted to sever the ties which bound them.
Might he be feeling contempt for today’s politicians who have failed to honour the wishes of the people, despite assurance after assurance by them that those wishes would be honoured? Might he be contemplating the futility of two World Wars – and the consequences – and arriving at the logical conclusion that his efforts and those of others had been a total waste of time? Might he be wondering why the service personnel of today sign-up to defend their nation which actually, is no longer theirs?
Ack: My thanks to Ian Burns of Seaham who owns the copyright of the photograph above and granted me permission for its use.