A trail taking in 25 distinctive war memorials stretching from Derbyshire in the UK to the Menin Gate in Belgium features in an exhibition at the European Parliament.
The Angels of Peace exhibition has been created by Conservative MEP Rupert Matthews, who was initially inspired by an eye catching war memorial in the Derbyshire village of Hadfield.
“It stands in the village centre and comprises a stone obelisk topped by a large angel statue, ” explained Mr Matthews, who is chairman of the East Midlands War Memorial Association. “It made quite an impression on me and I decided to see if there were any others like it.”
He identified a string of angel memorials across England. They include an eight feet high bronze angel in Luton standing on a plinth by Sir Reginald Blomfield, the architect responsible for much of London’s Regent Street. The memorial at Hinckley in Leicestershire has the angel positioned so that each year its shadow falls across the names of the dead at 11am on 11 November, Armistice Day.
The same symbolism continues in France, with angels featuring on memorials in Arras and other towns devastated during the first world war. Mr Matthews ends his trail at Ypres in Belgium, close by where his great uncle was killed in 1916.
The European Parliament exhibition opened on 4 February and features pictures and details of all the memorials on Mr Matthews’ trail, along with four extra memorials in Germany, Romania, Denmark and Belgium nominated by his fellow European Conservatives and Reformists group MEPs Hans-Olaf Henkel, Ulrike Trebesius, Laurentiu Rebega and Morten Messerschmidt.
Mr Matthews said: “The angels show the shared cultural heritage of the European nations that were torn apart by war but are now united in peace. By emphasising what we have in common we can put our difference into perspective.
“I am particularly pleased to co-host this exhibition with Hans-Olaf Henkel. His house was destroyed in a WWII bombing raid at the same time as my father was serving with RAF Bomber Command.
“It is poignant that of the member states whose MEPs are co-hosting this event, two were on the side of the Allies and two on the side of the Axis. To ensure peace in Europe going forwards we must remember our past, celebrate our shared culture and look forward to a peaceful future.
“I hope my personal selection might inspire people to visit some of the memorials and raise awareness of their continuing importance and the need to ensure they are maintained for future generations.”