It is estimated that in the UK more than 100,000 memorials were created to honour more than 900,000 British service men and women who died in the so-called war to end all wars. Of that gargantuan number, 18,000 came from the Glasgow area.
Loading article content
It follows then, that the city has its fair share of war memorials. Most people are familiar with the major ones: the cenotaph in George Square or the Cameronians War Memorial in Kelvingrove Park, near Kelvingrove Art Gallery, for example. Images of both are included in a new exhibition, In Honour's Cause, at St Mungo Museum Of Religious Art, which quietly focuses on tracking down and recording the less heralded war memorials in and around Glasgow.
Glasgow Museums photographers Jim Dunn and Enzo di Cosmo have left no stone unturned in this exhibition of photographs of the city's war memorials. Walking around it is like reading a book of short stories in which tiny kernels are examined in honest and unexpected ways - opening out whole shards of meaning.
Take the photograph of a weathered and weed-bound memorial in the grounds of the Immaculate Conception Church in Maryhill Road. This carved stone honours Father Michael Gordon, an army chaplain killed when a shell hit his billet at Coxyde in Belgium in August 1917. It bears the inscription D.O.M. - Deo Optimo Maximo - "to the greatest and best God". Father Gordon is 97 years dead and buried in a foreign field, but this project has brought his story out into the open again. The church now has plans to restore his memorial.
Another image shows a montage of 22 black and white portrait-style photographs of theology students from Glasgow University. This picture, taken on the first floor landing of the university's department of Theology and Religious Studies, reveals two rows of dead men above two mismatched fire extinguishers. Even writing about it, I can feel myself wanting to cry with the senseless waste of it all.
There is nothing showy or flashy about In Honour's Cause, which opened early last month as Glasgow went into full-on Commonwealth Games mode. Perhaps this is one of the reasons it flew under many radars, including my own.
It is split into seven simple themes: Fallen Comrades, Places Of Learning, Faith In Action, From Office And Factory Floor, Local Heroes, Leisure And Pleasure and For King And Empire. Each allows the visitor to walk around the various types of memorials. I was stopped in my tracks several times. In the workplace section, I was surprised to see a memorial outside HM Barlinnie; an obelisk that honours the 16 officers and sons of staff who died in the war. Stone for the monument was taken from the prison quarry.
As the years have gone past, many memorials have been transplanted. There is a great picture of two pupils from Whitehill Secondary, Dennistoun, walking past a plaque that moved when the school moved in 1977. The marble coat of arms is inscribed with the school's Latin motto, "altiora peto" ("I seek higher things").
Every Glasgow tram depot had its own memorial and, although the trams have long gone, plaques from Newlands, Langside and Dennistoun have ended up at First Bus Parkhead depot.
The Beardmore Roll of Honour on Beardmore Way, Dalmuir, once stood at the entrance to the offices of William Beardmore & Company's Naval Construction Works by the Clyde. The plaque, now in three sections, honours those who worked in the former shipbuilding yard. It was badly damaged by German bombing raids in the Clydebank Blitz during the Second World War.
In another image, former postman John Mackay, 82, stands in front of a memorial that came from the old Post Office building in George Square. He served with the 1st Battalion Cameronians after the Second World War. Another photograph shows Jim Ceirney, superintendent of the Jewish Cemetery, standing beside a bronze plaque at the Jewish Ex-Service Men's Association in Barlanark. The plaque, which has a Roll of Honour of 72 servicemen, was first erected in South Portland Street Synagogue (also known as the Great Synagogue) in the Gorbals in 1922.
The sheer weight of numbers of the fallen takes your breath away. There is a picture of the memorial at Govan Old Parish Church, which lists the names of six officers and 114 non-commissioned officers and men, for example. That is a lot of dead men from one relatively small district of Glasgow.
Most of the memorials remember soldiers who lost their life at war, although women are not forgotten. A window from the former headquarters of the North British Locomotive Works in Springburn remembers the role women played forging shells and ammunitions at home.
As a poignant postscript, the For King And Empire section marks the passing of men who died years after the war of injuries they received during active service. Now that this generation has passed away completely, the futility of war is writ large in this poignant exhibition.
In Honour's Cause: Glasgow's World War One Memorials, St Mungo's Museum Of Religious Life & Art, Glasgow (0141 276 1625, www.glasgowmuseums.com) until April 5