The Cenotaph: remembering the widows and children

Posted on: 21, November, 2018

British Army Ancestors is all about bringing our soldiers to life; putting faces to the names of those who served their King or Queen, and Country and in so doing, remembering those men and women to whom we all owe so much. But of course there is a bigger picture; behind every face another story of family, friends and loved ones, and it is those loved ones, and in particular the women and children, that I want to remember with this Cenotaph post.

The focus this November 11th has rightly been on the centenary of the Armistice, and in providing some closure to the mostly poignant and thoughtful First World War commemorations that have taken place over the last four and a half years.

Every day on the British Army Ancestors Facebook page, I take time to remember an individual, posting his (mostly) or her face and a brief biography. Over the Remembrance weekend I posted the images of two women at the Cenotaph in Whitehall: Louisa Kemp and unknown mourner.

The image of Louisa Kemp, on the left, is one of a series of images taken in 1970 by which time she had been a widow for 55 years. The other image of the unknown mourner dates to 1935. I have separated the two studies with an image of a snowy cenotaph taken at night in February 1939. It is interesting to note that some four months after Remembrance Sunday, there are still plenty of wreaths at the cenotaph’s base.

I spent my Remembrance Sunday at the cenotaph, by some quirk of fate managing to slot myself into a space right in front of Lutyens’s iconic memorial, beneath the press corps, and standing there for the next four hours as the preparations for the ceremony, and the ceremony itself got underway. For me there was no other place to be.

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