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Paul Gough
War Memorial Gardens as Dramaturgical Space

A version of this paper first appeared in the International Journal of Heritage Studies Volume 3, no.4, pp 199-214, issn 1352 7258


Since the end of the First World War British and Allied military cemeteries and memorial sites have been designed within a carefully controlled Imperial aesthetic. The emotional and historical capital of these sites has made objective judgement difficult; the burden of martial memory has made innovation in design almost impossible. This paper examines how the Dominion forces - notably Canada - achieved a distinct nationalism in their war memorials after the Great War. By focussing on two recent Canadian memorial sites - in London and France - the paper speculates on the ways in which artistic and military precedent informs the construction of monuments to conflict. The study concludes by looking at the recent public enthusiasm for floral and other temporary memorials which have challenged the rhetoric of official mourning.

i 'Evermore, in perpetuity ...'
Most of us will be familiar with the appearance of the military cemeteries that are maintained by the Commonwealth (formerly Imperial) War Graves Commission (CWGC). Located in 147 countries throughout the world they are invariably neat and regimented, paradigms of formality and official mourning. The history of these schemes, their architecture and planting systems has been fully documented. (1)

The task of building and maintaining the cemeteries in the 1920s was enormous and had to be achieved in the face of climatic and geophysical problems, as well as financial constraints. Although the Commission was eager to individualise the sites of mourning it chose to use a core of symbolic shapes located around a simple neo-Classical aesthetic. The 'keystones' of each cemetery - the Cross of Sacrifice and the Stone of Remembrance - were sculpted en masse and issued to each site on a sliding scale. Four sizes of cross were available from type A1 suitable for 40 - 250 burials, to type B suitable for cemeteries with over 2,000 burials. (2) The Stone of Remembrance - weighing some 12 tons and costing £500 to produce and install - was a standard form, as were the headstones that mark every body.

There was considerable debate on this concept of uniformity. The point most often argued in the early days of the IWGC focussed on the conflicting ideas of collectivity and individualisation. Sir Frederick Kenyon's report into possible cemetery design (3) argued that the repeated rows of congruent headstones would 'carry on the military idea, giving the appearance as of a battalion on parade', whilst trusting that 'the existence of individual headstones will go far to meet the wishes of relatives, who above all things are interested in the single graves' (4)

Standardisation of stone and format, he argued, would convey equality; while surface carving - in the form of a regimental crest, name, rank, regiment. date of death, and short inscription written (and paid for) by next of kin - would add variety and personalisation. Time has proved Kenyon and his colleagues right. The cemeteries of the Western Front evoke awe and emotion in a wide range of writers and visitors. The 'dictated democracy' (5) of both layout and format is now heralded as a success; it brings together both officers and men as fallen comrades in arms and reinforces the powerful sentiment of distant Britons lying in 'some foreign field'. The strict regimen of most CWGC cemeteries also helps cast a strong emphasis on the geographical locality and focusses attention on to the planting regimes and occasional individual memorials or commemorative trees that disrupt the symmetrical groundplan (6)

By and large the commemorative regime of the Great War has been sustained by the CWGC. Since the end of the second world war there has been some flexibility in the rules - the 'no-repatriation' for British Service personnel who died overseas, for example, was relaxed after the Borneo conflict in the early 1960s because suitable permanent burial sites could not be found and relatives no longer have to pay for inscriptions on Great War headstones. (7) Pilgrimages to battlefields have again become fashionable with a concomittant rise in the number of travel companies specialising in battlefield tours. Such is the interest in the relationship between commemoration and national identity that the Great War and its dead have become a focus of post-modernist reflection and poetic fiction. (8)

Indeed, the obsession with 'proper' forms of remembrance seems to be intensifying. As each Armistice Day nears there is a heightened media attention. This attention is stoked by veteran's organisations who seem, by and large, to have assumed ownership of national martial memory. In 1994, for example, British ex-servicemen's groups were able to dictate the terms of the D-Day anniversary commemoration and in so doing severely embarrassed a government who had premised celebration over remembrance. In Canada, there was an enormous emotional response to a television commercial that showed a cell-phone conversation between a teenager and his grandfather from the beach at Dieppe (the site of an infamous botched landing of Canadian troops in 1942). In Australia the Returned Servicemen's League reacted quickly to a controversy over a international football match that had been promoted using the revered 'ANZAC' title, an act that again caused the government Minister for Veteran Affairs some discomfort. (9)

These reactions have less to do with protocol and proprietry and perhaps more to do with a yearning for appropriate procedures of mourning. There is a recognition that such procedures and rituals are enshrined in a nation's civic heritage and should not be altered. As such the rituals of memory have been allowed to ossify. If, as has been argued, memory collects in uneven drifts across time (10) it gathers most readily around the monuments and memorials to a nation's war dead. Recently, there has been considerable academic interest in the symbolic role of war memorials and national identity. John R. Gillis's argument that most municipal memorials are the residue of civic, objective memory can be developed as a spatial metaphor. Institutional or elite time, he suggests, 'marches in a more or less linear manner' (11) and so creates the physical and mental boundaries of national identity. The regimented design and axial layout of most war cemeteries and memorial environment endorses this notion of elite space. As we shall see, the designers of new memorial environments have adopted a less didactic approach, seeking to include the pilgrim/spectator within the narrative of the commemorative space. Sceptics such as James Young have challenged the innate conservatism of most sites of memory. He argues forcefully that the state-sponsored monument is little better than the 'self aggrandising locus' for national memory. (12) As an alternative, he cites the proliferation of counter-monuments that have been 'built' in Germany during the past decade which derive their ideology from the discourses in public art, rather than the aesthetics of official mourning. (13)

Despite academic scepticism the fascination with the First World War, especially the trench war, shows little sign of abating. (14) There is, currently, a tremendous amount of energy being spent on registering and assessing the extant war memorials in the United Kingdom - under the auspices of the National Inventory of War Memorials and the British Sculpture and Memorials Association - while, at the other end of the production cycle, local interest groups are devising new and highly specific memorials at all points on the Western Front and other theatres of war (15)

Most of these new memorials fall back on a standard symbolic and formal language: the new Welsh Division memorial at Mametz Wood on the old Somme battlefield, for example, takes the somewhat predictable form of a resplendent bronze dragon astride a stone plinth; elsewhere a single tree has been planted on the site of the original 'Lone Tree' at the centre of the Loos battlefield in Belgium. In the past few years previously 'neglected' combatants, such as the Chinese Labour Corps, have asserted their right to design and locate memorials. Black South Africans have also been arguing for inclusion in the official history of their nation's contribution to the war: their input had long been marginalised in the tableaux and imagery of the South African Museum at Delville Wood which was built and funded by the apartheid regime.

Damaged or lost memorials are carefully renovated by the CWGC or assiduously traced, re-built and re-dedicated by veterans and ex-servicemen's associations and the many interest groups that have been established to perpetuate the memory of the Great War. It is, though, an uncomplicated understanding of the concept of memory, and the monuments and monoliths that line the old battlefields are regarded as the crucial and immutable fixed points in that narrative. They offer a quite closed and concrete reality to a fluid and often nebulous history, much of which is now impossible to re-tell with any accuracy.

In this emotionally charged environment change and modification is not possible (or necesarily desirable). The 300 CWGC cemeteries on the line of the old Western Front are fixed forever, like the 'beads on a rosary', (16) on 'consecrated' ground given by the French and Belgian governments in perpetuity. In stone and brick, inscribed with messages of permanence and durability - 'Ever More', 'Never Forgotten' - the cemetery plots and bulky monuments evince values of longevity and stasis that have thrown up interesting challenges for the designers of new memorial environments.

ii Dominion Power
During the great period of monument building of the 1920s and 1930s the august team of architects and aestheticians tasked with rendering the Empire's loss in stone did all they could to bring a regional flavour to their memorial schemes.

As early as 1915, under the leadership of Fabian Ware, the IWGC had initiated a scheme to import and plant home grown maple seeds on Canadian graves; that same year the Australian wattle plant was planted on graves in Gallipoli. In the same spirit, cuttings of oleraia and Veronica traversii were imported from New Zealand. After the war the commission went to great lengths to ensure that only plants considered sacred and appropriate for commemoration were planted on Indian and Chinese graves. (17)

This arboreal symbolism was extended to the architectural schema, though with varying degrees of success and subtlety. The Indian and Chinese cemetery at Ayette, for example, is graced by a pagoda-like portico which is faintly oriental without being architecturally specific. On the old Somme and Ypres battlefields the Maple leaf is ubiquitous: it is carved into Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) headstones, inscribed on waypoints along the tourist routes, and planted at significant points on the old front line. Similarly, the South African monument in Delville Wood, on the Somme, comprises a Cross of Consecration in the form of a Voortrekker double cross upon a cross, and nearby a bronze group of two figures either side of a great horse is meant to represent the 'Union' of the two races of the Union of South Africa. (18) The Memorial to the Indian troops, located at a tactically important crossroads on the old Neuve Chapelle battleground, was designed by Sir Herbert Baker (one of the core of memorial designers employed by the IWGC) in 'completely oriental style' (19) though it owes, in fact, more to Lutyen's and Baker's aspirations for New Delhi than to a genuine understanding of Indian vernacular.

Of all former Dominion nations it is the Canadians who seem to have specialised in extending and elaborating the indigenous nature of their memorials. (20) The greatest of these is, arguably, the Vimy Memorial in Northern France. Although not the site of the CEF's greatest military victory it was at Vimy that the Canadian Corps first fought as a single unit comprised of soldiers from all parts of the country. As such the battle and victory at Vimy Ridge was considered by the Canadian Battlefields Memorial Commission (CBMC) to be the keystone of eight memorial sites that were to be established along the Western Front. It was also hoped that a 5 mile long tract of the surrounding land would be purchased as a historical backdrop and geographical context to the memorial. (21) The design of the memorial itself was put to an open competition, which was won by the Ontario sculptor Walter Allward. Unlike the rather restrained symmetrical neo-classical obelisks, arches and towers that pepper the former battlefields Allward's design is altogether more dramatic. It is a massive theatrical structure arranged in a series of long walls which he hoped would symbolise 'strong impregnable walls of defence'. (22) From this base emerge several groups of figures representing, somewhat melodramatically, the 'Breaking of the Sword', the 'Sympathy of the Canadians for the Helpless' and 'Canada mourning her Dead'. The elevated moral tone is endorsed by the rhetorical gestures of the figures and is repeated in a further group poised on either face of the two huge stone pylons that bisect the memorial ("two pylons symbolising the two forces - Canadian and French". (23) Here, figures in the symbolic form of Peace, Justice, Truth and Knowledge emerge from the creamy stone that was imported at great expense from an obscure quarry in Dalmatia. (24)

The Vimy monument is, though, only the focal point of a quite vast and complex commemorative enterprise. Behind it stretches the Memorial Park - a tract of battlefield preserved and owned in perpetuity by Canada that can be freely roamed by pilgrims and visitors. Much of this terrain is crazily pitted and lumpy, with the lines of old trenches and dugouts clearly visible through the grass. Shell-holes and craters are well preserved as is often the case on many stretches of the old front lines in this part of Europe, but the tour de force at Vimy is a carefully maintained tunnel and crater system. Here, the two front lines were within yards of one another and, to gain any tactical advantage, deep and long infantry subways were dug and garrisoned. Underground accomodation, casualty dressing stations, stores and offices were scoured out of the ground and connected to the surface by elaborate passages fed by miniature railway. The tunnels are open to the public, and guides (usually history students on placement from Canadian universities) conduct the visitor through several hundred yards of dank and littered tunnel with numerous connecting galleries that once housed guard rooms, a hospital, a general's quarters, and ammunitions dumps still strewn with discarded equipment. Along the entire Western Front there is little to rival the Vimy tunnels for the raw sense of a troglodyte world.

Elsewhere in the Memorial Park the pilgrim re-lives the trench experience in rather more second-hand ways: the trenches leading to the tunnels follow their original circuitous route but are preserved as concrete sandbags and concrete duckboards. Above ground, it is a favourite ploy of tour guides to line the coachloads of visitors on either side of the shallow craters that constitute the line of the old No Man's Land. They stand facing each other, just a few yards apart, vicariously living out the trauma of 'going over the top'.

The Canadians excel in this form of theatrical re-enactment. We find it again on another carefully preserved site on the old Somme battlefield. Although there are no surviving tunnels, the Newfoundland Memorial Park at Beaumont Hamel has deep and conspicuous zig-zag trench lines, a wide tract of No Man's Land, and a petrified 'Danger Tree' which marks the half-way point before the German front line trenches which are liberally dotted with jagged pieces of iron. In a melodramatic gesture that rivals the Vimy statuary, the 'hallowed ground' (25) is surveyed by a giant bronze Caribou raised high above the trenches on an artificial mound.

Neither Vimy or the Newfoundland Park can be taken in at a glance. Unlike the stone-walled CWGC cemeteries they cannot be understood from a distance. Each has to be experienced through the physical act of walking, and thus (to an extent) re-living the infantryman's experience. Unlike the walled plots and memorial stones of most CWGC plots they are assymetrical and idiosyncratic. Full appreciation comes through active participation. In addition, their submerged geographies and hidden narratives do require significant decoding, and thus retain much of their mystique as sites of mourning. (26) Guidebooks offer some help, but on the ground one trench begins to look like very other dip in the ground. Protocol demands that there should be little signage, lest the concept of 'memorial' park degenerates into trench theme park. Of this, though, there is little risk - although carefully preserved and orchestrated, these memorial parks are laden with meaning. There is, as one eminent guide notes, still a powerful 'smell of battle' and an overwhelming sense of catastrophe and loss is embedded in these few acres of closely cropped grass. (27)

These two tracts of memorial landscape are unique on the old Western Front and have now been given special sacred status as the first two Canadian Historic Monuments outside the mother country. There are a number of privately owned patches of 'original trench line' - at Sanctuary Wood, for instance - but they are small in scale and poorly maintained (though in this sense they are, arguably, more 'authentic'). The primary French memorial ground lies in the heavily forested slopes around the town of Verdun. But apart from some sensational centrepieces (such as the infamous tranchee du baionnettes) the surrounding terrain is still too blasted and desolate (and the earth too friable) to sustain the carefully preserved memorial parks of the Picardy battlegrounds.

It might be argued then that the Canadian designers have been successful in their ambitions. The memorial parks are spatially complex, they require the pilgrim visitor to participate vicariously in exploring an unknown terrain and to take part in a meaningful narrative, and they have managed to integrate the figurative symbolism of their monuments into the commemorative landscape. These environments do, though, pose many difficult questions. In his essay on Vimy Ridge, John Pierce lists the key issues evoked by the consecrated place: is the memorial and park a celebration of martial achievement or the site of ritual mourning ? Was the dedication ceremony an Imperial event 'solidifying Canada's relationship with its new King or a statement about an independent Canadian nation ?' Is it an anti-war monument or a declaration of democratic principles. (28) As Pierce argues, it was all of these and more. Certainly, as Jonathan Vance asserts, Vimy was the ultimate moment in the post-war crusade to the new 'Holy Land' of the Western Front. (29)

From an aesthetic point, the Canadian monuments in France and Belgium are marked by a desire to combine highly descriptive and figurative elements of a design with quite abstract parts. This ambition can also be recognised in much of the commissioned war art of the period; in the large canvases of Wyndham Lewis, David Bomberg and AY Jackson there is a clear desire to fuse modernist geometrics with recognisable figurative forms. (30) It is as if the Canadian designers wished to incorporate elements of the Imperial aesthetic of neo-Classical restraint with some of the expressive, figurative qualities evident in many Great War statuary designed by their American counterparts (31) And just as this fusion of the geometric with the expressive is a characteristic of a number of key CBMC pieces on the Western Front, it is evident in the new Canadian memorial in London and is part of a complex semiotic narrative in a recently designed memorial garden in Normandy.

iii Green Park, London
On 3rd June 1994 the Canadian Memorial to the dead of two world wars was unveiled in Green Park, London. Aproached from the Mall it first appears as two low triangles which seem to shimmer slightly above the lawns. On closer viewing the cause of this shimmering becomes obvious: the triangles are slabs of black polished stone rippling with shallow cascades of continuous water. The edifice is bisected by a narrow causeway which cuts into the monument to become a narrow fissure somewhat reminiscent of the stone trenches of the Vimy Memorial Park. As one walks through the monument the narrow trench-path rises by as little as eight inches; just enough to require the walker to make an actual effort, whilst all around one senses the rush of water moving remorselessly in the opposite direction.

Emerging out of the trench-like corridor the memorial reveals itself as two massive spikes pointing west across London. The walk back through the monument leads in a direct line to a sunken memorial plaque in the form of a compass rose inscribed in French and English. From this raised position it is evident that the memorial has been designed as three interlocking triangles - two water-covered shapes that drive the memorial westward, a third triangle that acts as a counterweight pulling the memorial back towards the Canada Gates in front of Buckingham Palace.

As if to underline the west to east axis of the monument the compass rose is aligned on Halifax, Nova Scotia, the principal port of embarkation for the Canadian forces in both world wars.

The monument, designed by a French-Canadian, Pierre Granche, is outwardly modernist in conception and design. But, like many Canadian monuments on the Western Front, it has attempted to integrate figurative elements as a means of developing the military narrative and to help focus the symbolic weight of the piece. In Granche's design the lower reaches of the falling water are sprinkled with dozens of bronze maple leaves. In a curious reversal of the aging process, the colours are gradually changing from a deep brown to bright green as the chemicals begin to react with the falling water. Set against the pure abstraction of the monument, the naturalistic leaves convey a dissonant note suggesting both permanence and immutability, but also serving as an uncomfortable reminder of figures left stranded or washed ashore in the shallow waters of amphibious landings, most poignantly for the Canadian memory at Dieppe and Normandy.

Like other Canadian memorial parks on the Western Front, the Green Park monument uses space and narrative in a particular way. The monument has to be experienced physically, with a sensitive understanding of spatial and aural transformation. As at Vimy Ridge, the sculpture grafts overtly figurative elements on to an heavily abstracted super-structure. The design also relies on a dramatic bisection - the twin pillars at Vimy echoed in the two triangles at Green Park - which is perhaps symbolic of the twin tongues of the Canadian peoples, but also of the 'special relationship' between Dominion power and Mother Country. A point re-inforced by the sculpture's proximity to Buckingham Palace - the seat of British monarchy and Commonwealth.

iv Le Memorial de la Paix, Caen
Like the Vimy and Green Park memorials, the design for the Canadian Garden at Caen was decided by an open competition. The brief for the Caen site was though rather more exacting. The garden had to be sited on the slopes and valley floor of an escarpment that housed on one side the imposing Battle of Normandy Museum, known as le Memorial de la Paix, and on the other a busy six lane highway that skirts the suburbs of Caen city. Some 100 yards away, towards the headwall of the valley, lay the site of a proposed American forces garden, and on the plateau above were proposed sites for other memorials, including a British garden. The winning entry, proposed by a team of staff and students from a Canadian university, ingeniously exploits the topography of the valley in a symbolic and programmatic narrative that is full of subtle allusions and echoes of previous Canadian memorial sites.

There are few obvious clues (nor annotated diagrams or maps) to help de-code the planting and architectural scheme. But in its programmatic design the garden relates a simple story of military purpose and achievement. What follows is an attempt to 'read' the symbolic and temporal text of the site using on the one hand the contextual framework of Vimy, Beaumont Hamel and Green Park, and on the other by adopting a sensitive, and at times speculative reaction to the garden's possible readings.

The Canadian garden is best approached by a narrow winding tarmac road that descends suddenly into a broad valley hemmed in one side by the highway and on the left by the imposing walls of Le Memorial de la Paix, a huge museum, archive and conference complex. The flat ground above the valley is always busy and noisy but little of this bustle descends into the sunken valley below and few people seem to wander into the memorial space dedicated to the Canadian and American Gardens.

'Garden' is a misleading word for what is in fact a provocative piece of landscape theatre. The Canadian garden spans the entire width of the valley, but is concentrated in two halves separated by the valley floor. The designers have used this intervening space to suggest an idea of historical distance, physical separation and, perhaps, even a rite of passage from one state to another. Although this sounds a little over-reaching (and probably a little overblown) it does seem to reflect the real ambitions of the design team who wanted to use the topography of the valley to mimic a soldier's progress through the Second World War - from home earth, across water, through a period of exposure and hazard, up an arduous, often disorientating climb, to the final breach in a seemingly solid defensive wall and, finally, on to a hard-won victory at the summit of the left-hand valley wall.

Somewhat predictably, the journey begins with the fall of water. In an echo of the Green Park memorial the focal point on the right hand side of the valley is a sunken pool containing a broad rectangle of sixteen rectangular black stone slabs. ) As in London these are washed over by an unceasing flow of water. The fountain has been 'dug into' the sides of the valley wall and from a short distance is reminiscent of gun pits that are dug to house large artillery pieces, or (to stretch the military analogy further) redolent of those Great War photographs of a battalion formed in open square to receive and hear its commanding officer. The black slabs are inscribed with Latin text - Nulla dies umquam memori vos eximet aevo (No day will erase your generation from our memory). Like its Green Park counterpart, it evinces powerful notions of cleansing and perpetuation. Here also the water acts as a metaphor for the Atlantic crossing, a point somehow re-inforced by the grid-like structure of the slabs, which seems to mimic the longitude and latitude lines on Admiralty charts.

Lining the flower beds of the fountain and 'gun pit' is a low wall engraved with the names of dozens of French villages that were liberated by the Canadian Army after 1944. The list includes many hamlets and villages - Authie, St Contest, Cussy - that are within walking distance of the garden. The slopes are planted with four rows of sycamore trees which simultaneously announce and 'protect' the exposed slab of water.

Exposure is the primary theme in the next stage of this programmatic journey. Leaving the formal layout of the sunken pool (with its axial regimentation and sense of order) one has to cross thirty eight metres of flat terrain, aware all the time that the crossing can be monitored from the crest above and increasingly aware of the looming presence of the sheer stone wall that comprises the next stage of the garden. (Figure 8) Unlike the falling water of the fountain, this traverse has no obvious geographical connotations except that it asserts a sense of vulnerability. The passage of time is suggested in the layout of the trees which mature as one crosses from water to the wall - from the young sycamore saplings in sentry formation besides the fountain, past two larger birches at the foot of the slope, on to the mature trees at the crest.

The next stage of the garden is certainly the most challenging and, for many visitors, the most problematic. We are confronted by a steep wilderness of thick, spiky prairie grass. Initially, it appears inpenetrable but a mud path zig-zags steeply ahead, first to the right and then into a succession of interlocking spurs. The most striking effect is not the sense of exposed space behind or the large smooth wall directly ahead, but the strange effect where the harsh brown prairie grass give way to verdant green clumps. The transition between green and brown is abrupt and makes a straight line at the edge of the winding path giving the odd impression that a ten yard swathe of the hillside has been scorched leaving broad bands of greenery on either side. There is a further suprise in that the brown spikey clumps - neatly planted 18 inches apart in parade ground formation - are not 'dead' at all, but actually soft to the touch and sprouting tiny delicate yellow flowers. On the steeper banks the tufts are knitted into the soil by a cellular plastic webbing that resembles a think veneer of skin flowing over the hillside. These corporeal undertones are at the root of many objections to this phase of the garden. Veterans groups and ex-servicemen's associations have objected to the apparent deadness of the plants, and the implication that they represent the fate of so many young Canadian soldiers on the campaign to liberate Europe. It may not be just the grass that offends. The zig-zag path is frustrating to the walker; progress up the slope is constantly confused by the repetition of the clumps which are difficult to keep in focus. To add to this, one is aware constantly of the oppressive mass of white stone bearing down - a possible quotation from the impregnable walls at Vimy, but also perhaps a reminder to many veterans of the heavily defended Atlantic Wall or a fortified pill-box that still looms gigantically in the memory.

The wall itself does seem impregnable. As one takes the third turn in the zig-zag path, the mounds of earth to either side start to assume the shape of a rampart, the brown prarie grass spreading down the slope looks more like the wiry tufts of a dismembered broom, or even miniature shrapnel bursts. Directly above, the white wall is bisected a third of the way along its length by a strip of black marble. From a distance one might have assumed that this was an opening or doorway. Instead it serves as another visual frustration, a neatly ironic touch by the design team.

The actual opening is far to the right; indeed it is at the furthest point from the last turn in the path. In the summer it is a relief to leave the dusty, baked and visually abrasive prarie path and move onto the cool white slabs of the stonework. The gap in the wall is narrow, and gives on to a stairway of four flights faced by a wall of polished black stone inscribed with the legend 'Liberation Comes from the Sea. La Liberation Vient par La Mer'. At the foot of this imposing and reflective surface is a narrow flower bed planted with poppies - this century's primary floral symbol of martial mourning. The narrow aperture into this stage of the memorial may be familiar to battlefield pilgrims: it repeats the stepped walkways of the Vimy memorial and the cool narrow cleft of the Green Park monument.

The shadow of the stairway is soon left behind as the visitor climbs onto the fifth and final phase in the garden's narrative. One surfaces not only into the light but onto that other incontrovertible symbol of recovery and normality - the pristine and well-manicured lawn. The summit of the monument takes the form of a flat viewing platform from where the journey across the floor of the valley, along the winding zig-zag path and through the tunnel of the memorial is easily read. A national flag and four glass panels make up the remainder of the memorial. ) The panels - rectangles of thick laminated glass, some two metres tall - repeat the unit of commemoration that has been constant throughout the garden. Unlike many Allied memorials there are no individual names, instead there are long lists of the Canadian military units that fought in Normandy during the summer of 1944. Unlike the carved inscription near the fountain these names are less easy to read as the transparency of the glass makes the words blend with the landscape behind - a metaphor perhaps for the movement of troops through the land or for the assimilation of dead soldiers into the soil.

The small lawn is bounded by two cypress trees - the only concession to traditional funeral convention in the entire garden - and then merges with the plateau with its industrial park and grounds of le Memorial. One hundred yards away is the site of a proposed United Kingdom garden, distinguished only by a roughly hewn pillar of Antrim granite sent by the people of Belfast and standing rather cryptically in open space.

The ambition of the Canadian garden can be measured against the lavish conservatism of the nearby United States garden. By contrast with the Canadian scheme, the US garden does not use the natural topography valley site in any significant way. Instead, a huge volume of rock and water has been brought into the landscape to fashion a dish of water that flows dramatically over a waterfall into a naturalistic pond surrounded by pleasant landscaped gardens. As with the Canadian scheme, flowing water is used as a multiple symbol of regeneration, military might and a just cause. As the legend at the foot of the monument explains: 'From the Heart of our Land flows the Blood of our Youth. Given to you in the name of freedom'.

Instead of earth and plants, the US garden designers have used rock and stone to lend additional symbolic authority. The pink granite that forms the higher pond has been fashioned into extraordinary curves and ellipses, reminiscent of a sci-fi epic or some space age architecture. By comparison, the wall under the waterfall resembles a homely dry-stone chimney breast, and is studded with painted boulders, polished plaques and large nuggets of semi-precious stone sent from many different States in the USA. Each stone represents one of the many military units that fought their way through Normandy after D Day in 1944. It is a form of trans-continental exchange in stone and soil that has taken place in many memorial sites in Europe: on the old Gallipoli battlefields, for instance, pine seedlings have been swapped between various Australian cities for many decades. In the US scheme, however, the rocks suggest immovability and military prowess ("All Hell can't stop us" claims one inscription) instead of the more peaceful ideals of the seed and tree exchange.

The Canadian Garden at Caen suggests new ways of commemorating war dead. In its highly programmatic design the garden eschews the notion of a fixed reading of the iconography of commemoration. It requires speculative thought and free association. Like several previous commemorative sites it demands participation and physical interaction. Unlike the Vimy tunnels or Newfoundland Memorial Park the martial clues are far more cryptic, and perhaps less instantly rewarding. As commemorative sites, gardens can be rather more fluid than the walled cemeteries and enclosed memorials. They offer notions of continuity and regeneration in a much less rhetorical manner than piles of stone or fashioned bronze. They prioritise the dramaturgical over the purely visual and remain inclusive and interactive as performative or psychic space. (32)

As was shown with the massive public mourning for Diana, Princess of Wales, in September 1997, floral tributes, potted plants, coloured balloons, messages and other transient symbols of loss and grieving can overflow the fixed architecture of a site in a highly personal and meaningful way, even to the point of challenging the civic and official methods of permament commemoration. It is perhaps significant that of the 7,000 proposals for a memorial to the Princess, a garden has been chosen as the most fitting tribute to her life.

1 Sidney Hurst, The Silent Cities, Methuen, London, 1929; Philip Longworth, The Unending Vigil Leo Cooper, London, 1967/1985; Rose E.B. Coombes, Before Endeavour Fades, After the Battle Pub. London, 1983; Alan Borg, War Memorials, Leo Cooper, London, 1991.

A useful overview of the range of debates in academia can be read in Nuala Johnson, "Cast in Stone: monuments, geography and nationalism", Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, pp 51-65.

2 Martin Middlebrook, The Somme Battlefields, Viking, London, 1991, p.15

3 War Graves: How the Cemeteries abroad will be Designed, (Kenyon Report), H.M.S.O., London, 1918

4 Cited Longworth, op.cit., p.34

5 John Harris 'Memorials to the Fallen', Country Life, December 1977

6 Paul Gough, 'Conifers and Commemoration: The Politics and Protocol of Planting', Landscape Research, Vol.21, No.1, March 1996, pp 73-87

7 Middlebrook, op.cit., p.8

8 Geoff Dyer, The Missing of the Somme, Penguin, London; Pat Barker, The Eye in the Door, The Ghost Road, London, 1994-95 Sebastian Faulks, Birdsong, London, 1995

9 Report in Sydney Morning Herald 6 Jan. 1998, page 1, reported on internet, www.smh.com.au/daily/content/970417

10 John Berger and Geoff Dyer, A Shadow into the Future, broadcast UK Radio 3, November 1995

11 John R.Gillis, Memory and Identity: the History of a Relationship in Commemorations, Princeton University Press, 1994, p.6

12 James E. Young, "The Counter-Monument: Memory against itself in Germany Today", in Art and the Public Sphere, ed.W.J.T.Mitchell, University of Chicago Press, 1990, p.52

13 See for example Sol Lewitt's Black Form in Hamburg, or Jochen Gerz and Esther Shalev-Gerz's Hamburg Monument against Fascism, 1989. Also, see the work of the Critical Art Ensemble distributed on the internet, and in a photo-essay "Nine Theses Against Monuments" in Random Access 2: Ambient fears, eds. Pavel Buchler and Nikos Papastergiadis, River Orams Press, 1996, pp. 22-30

14 www.infosites.net/general/the-great-war/lists.htm has a number of UK based organisations

15 See Stand To! The Journal of the Western Front Association and the WFA Bulletin with its regular Memorials Officer reports. The PMSA is currently bidding for substantial Heritage Lottery Funding. See also Catherine Moriarty, Sites of Memory: War memorials at the end of the 20th century, Imperial War Museum, 1997

16 Denis Winter, Death's Men, Penguin, London, 1978, p.259

17 Longworth, op.cit., p.74

18 Coombes, op.cit., p.96

19 S.Rice, Neuve Chapelle: India's Memorial in France, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1928

20 Robert Shipley, To Mark Our Place: A History of Canadian War Memorials, NC Press, Toronto, 1987

21 Jonathan Vance, Death So Noble: Memory, Meaning and the First World War, UBC Press, Vancouver, Canada, 1997, p.67

22 Allward quoted in Memorial booklet, The Vimy Memorial, Veterans Affairs Canada, Ottawa, 1967, p.11

23 ibid, pp 11-12

24 Vance, op.cit., p.67

25 Coombes, op.cit., p.85

26 On this point see Jay Winter, Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning, Cambridge University Press, 1995. 'Sites of memory' is a term also used by the French historian Pierre Nora in his seven volume study Les Lieux de Memoire, Gaillimard, Paris, 1984-92

27 Coombes, op.cit., p 85 and Middlebrook, op.cit., pp 84-86

28 John Pierce, "Constructing Memory: The Vimy Memorial", Canadian Military History, Vol.1, nos. 1 and 2, Autumn 1992, p.7

29 Vance, op.cit., p.56

30 For a history of the Canadian War Memorials Schemes see Maria Tippett, Art at the Service of War:Canada, Art and the Great War, University of Toronto Press, 1984

31 See James M. Mayo, War memorials as Political Landscape: The American Experience and Beyond, Praeger, New York, 1988

32 My thanks to Dr Derrick Price for his thoughts on this issue.

My thanks to Professor Terry Copp at Wilfred Laurier University for inviting me to Caen to carry out research on the memorial scheme. I am grateful to Laura Brandon, curator at the Canadian War Museum and Mike Bechthold, assistant editor of Canadian Military History for their support during my research into the Green Park memorial which was featured in the museum journal (Vol.5, No 1) in spring 1996. I should also like to thank colleagues at the Faculty of Art, Media and Design, University of the West of England, Bristol for their criticism and comments. I am grateful also to Dr Paul Dickson and Dr Brian Osborne, Queen's University, Canada for inviting me to take part in a seminar on social memory and national commemoration in February 1997.