International Brigade Memorial
'It is a bronze sculpture by Ian Walters sitting on a black polished granite plinth with inscriptions.
The sculpture shows a figure being lifted up by four other smaller figures. The main figure is larger and has a blindfold or bandage across its eyes and around its head. The left hand is missing, severed at the wrist; the right hand trails on the ground palm up.
The arms of the four smaller figures, two on each side, combine together to cradle the dying figure, raising it up. On the left side the arms of the smaller figures are raised, palm open, in an upward defensive gesture; on the right side a hand is raised in the defiant, clenched fist salute of the Republican cause. From a distance the arms and hands look like wings stretching upwards to the sky to lift the fallen figure.
Two of the original commissioning committee, Betty and Chris Birch, see the memorial as representing "the support given by the people of many nations to the Spanish people in their fight against fascism."
Ian Walters first made a small model or maquette of his design which was was shown to the Appeals Committee along with the designs of four other artists. The Committee choose Ian Walters design as best representimng their idea for the memorial. He then set about making a full-size version. This was made of plaster and was taken to the foundry where it was cast in bronze.
In 1983 there were many memorials in other countries and in Britain to the International Brigade; but nothing in London. So in that year it was decided that something should be done about trying to raise the funds for a suitable memorial in the capital city. A number of people agreed to be sponsors, and early in 1984 the International Brigade Memorial Appeal was launched. Bill Alexander was the chairman, Jim Jump (senior) was the secretary, Chris Birch was the treasurer, and the committee members were Betty Birch, Solly Kaye, Bob Walker, Joe Monks, and Ann or Anne Mildwater. Alec Digges attended some of the meetings.
The sponsors of the appeal were Isabel Brown, James Cameron, Moss Evans, Michael Foot MP, Lord Elwyn-Jones, Ivor Montague, Arthur Scargill, Sogat 82 William Keys, Dame Janet Vaughan and Lord Willis. A public appeal was launched, posters produced and letters sent to all the unions affiliated to the TUC and (we think) to all constituency Labour Parties. Many individuals also contributed as did the Greater London Council.
Five sculptors, were asked to present their ideas, and the maquette by Ian Walters was chosen by a majority vote of the committee. In the end, "the committee was well pleased."
Casting the sculpture..
The sculpture is made of bronze and was cast by Wally Livingstone at his foundry in Kent.
Looking at the sculpture in Jubilee Gardens rising up against the sky it is difficult to think that at one point in the process it was just a mass of molten metal - about 3/4 of a ton in weight. The bronze was cast by the 'Lost Wax Process' in which the molten metal burns away a wax version of the sculpture, before it is finally cooled, 'coloured' and polished.
The International Brigade memorial was unveiled by Michael Foot on 5th October, 1985. It stands in Jubilee Gardens, on London's South Bank beside the Thames and not far from Westminster and Parliament buildings. Today it stands in the shadow of the London Eye.
The inscription on the front reads: "INTERNATIONAL BRIGADE. In honour of over 2,100 men and women volunteers who left these shores to fight side by side with the Spanish people in their heroic struggle against fascism, 1936-1939".
The inscription on the reverse side of the plinth reads: "This memorial, unveiled by Michael Foot, 5th October 1985, was made possible by the support of many democratic organizations, individuals and the Greater London Council."
The inscription cut into the right hand side of the plinth reads, "They went because their open eyes could see no other way." and is from the poem Volunteer by the poet C.Day-Lewis published in 1938 at the time of the war.
The inscription cut into the left side of the plinth is from Byron's 'Childe Harold's Pilgimage' and reads:
"Yet Freedom! yet thy banner, torn, but flying.
Streams like the thunder-storm against the wind."
Byron's poem was about the turmoil in Europe after the Napoleanic wars (19th century) and how many countries, including Spain, "...fight for freedom, who were never free".'