Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Winged Victory

War Memorial, Cnr. Coronation Parade and Liverpool Road, Enfield (Former Enfield Town Hall in background)

One thing that Australia is not short of is war memorials. Most towns and suburbs have a memorial erected outside the local RSL Club, in a park or outside the Town Hall with a statue of some sort honouring servicemen who fought, and died, in various wars.  Sometimes, as above, the memorial has as a centrepiece an item of military hardware.

In the years following white settlement of Australia, troopers were used to quell aboriginal resistance and convict rebellions and to quash the miners’ revolt at Eureka. Australian troops traveled to New Zealand in 1845 to fight in the first Anglo-Maori War and again in 1860. They also traveled overseas to take part in the Sudan campaign of 1885, the Boer War (1899-1901) and the Boxer Rebellion in China (1900-1901). The first time Australian troops saw action as representatives of a nation, rather than as a group of colonies, was in World War 1. From a population of fewer than five million, 416,809 men enlisted, with over 60,000 killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner.

Following the end of WW1, and even during its course, numerous memorials were erected dedicated to those who had made the ultimate sacrifice.

Marrickville, the area in which I reside, was no exception.

A memorial dedicated to the 457 Marrickville soldiers who died during the First World War was unveiled in 1919. Although only a small municipality, over 4,000 men from the area enlisted to serve.

The memorial consisted of a brass depiction of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. Known as Winged Victory, she stood atop an 8 metre granite plinth. The statue was designed and erected by Gilbert Dobel and was over 4 metres tall, symbolising victory by holding a laurel wreath in her right hand and an upraised sword in her left. Although the sword was raised in victory, the eyes were downcast in sorrow for those who had secured the victory at the cost of their lives.

Winged Victory, photo taken in 1919 by Gilbert Dobel

Marrickville War Memorial Opening Ceremony, 1922

16,000 gathered at the dedication of the statue on 24 May 1919 and there Winged Victory remained, until 1962. In that year the statue was moved to a shed in Petersham because of safety concerns, the metal at the base having deteriorated and threatening to cause the statue to topple. She remained in the shed, sad and forgotten, until restored and re-erected as part of the Bicentennial project. Only the top half of the statue was original, the bottom half having been replaced by a replica cast when the bottom half could not be located.

Restoration of the statue, the bottom half being recreated in wax clay

In 2009 she was removed again, large cracks in the statue having raised safety concerns, as well as issues of stability. The original top half is now on display in a gallery in the Australian war Memorial in Canberra.

Which brings me to the point of today's post.

In April 2015 a re-imagined version of Winged Victory was erected as part of the Town Hall upgrade.

Created by artists Peter Corlett and Darien Pullen, it maintains the same dimensions as the original statue but the pose has been altered by having the sword lowered. According to sculptor Damien, "I was chasing an image of peace and sacrifice.” (The lowering of the sword apparently also stopped it acting as a lightning rod, the cause of damage to the original statue).

I drive by the statue regularly and an always fascinated by the beauty of it, the blending of the themes of victory and sacrifice in a statue that is, well . . . sexy.

Here are some pics of the construction and dedication of Winged Victory, with some extra of the statue itself.

Tell me what you think.


Dedication in 2015

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