Thursday, November 25, 2010

The "Counting the Cost" Memorial

click photo to enlarge
I recently attended a talk on "remembrance" that included the subject of war memorials. These tributes to the fallen can be seen all over the country in villages, towns and cities. Most of them date from around 1920 and list the local men (and women) who died in the First World War. Invariably they were added to after the Second World War, and some have names from later conflicts. A few memorials - such as the The Cenotaph in Whitehall, London - commemorate no individual, but rather seek to remember all those who died. And then there are others that are very specific, honouring women, or particular branches of the armed forces.

On my recent visit to the Imperial War Museum aviation museums at Duxford I photographed a memorial to United States airmen who flew from Britain during World War Two. It is a very effective and moving design that departs radically from the usual stone and sculpture of earlier memorials. The designer was Renato Niemis, and his bold idea was to use 52 toughened clear float glass panels each of which is etched with a repesentation of an aircraft that was lost. The panels line the path that leads to the American Air Museum, and as you walk alongside it, passing the packed ranks of B-17s, Liberators, Mustangs etc you become aware of just how many aircraft were shot down. Moreover, as you imagine each bomber with its full complement of crewmen - 10 in the case of the B-17 - you start to grasp the human cost of the bombing campaign in terms the aircrew who never returned. In fact, 7,031 aircraft are depicted, and it is a salutary experience to see this before you enter the museum and see examples of some of the aircraft shown on the memorial.

The light was very changeable, and somewhat dull when I tried to photograph the "Counting the Cost" memorial. The best shot I got was the detail against the clouds and blue of the sky. I include the second photograph not for any special photographic qualities, but to give a better idea of how the aircraft are packed onto each panel.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

First photo
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 67mm
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/1000
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On