Saul and David and Two Machine Guns

Saul hath slain his thousands
but David his tens of thousands

This is the quote from the Bible (1 Samuel 18:7) carved into the plinth of the memorial statue by Derwent Wood R.A. to the Machine Gun Corps of the First World War that now stands in the traffic island at Hyde Park Corner not far from The Wellington Arch. It is also called ‘The Boy David’ as the statue features a nude figure of David flanked by two Vickers machine guns.

Russ Ralph and I are here as part of explorations for our ongoing work ‘In Search Of Percy’ – our Percy served in the Machine Gun Corp, the ‘Suicide Club’ and died from his wounds not in France where he sustained them but in Tooting Military Hospital where he really believed he was getting better.

The memorial was controversial, as some interpreted the beautiful statue with its accompanying Vickers guns, and the reference to slaying hundreds and thousands, as glorifying war. We believe this to be a crass interpretation of Derwent Wood’s intent as Wood knew only too well the horrors of war signing up to serve not as a combatant but a medical orderly and after the war dedicating himself to designing facial prosthetics for men disfigured during the so called ‘Great War’

‘In Search Of Percy’ will see us explore further the work of Derwent Wood, in particular his work with prosthetics and how this has also influenced art even through till now. This will also provide source material for new works, literary and visual.

Paul Conneally

12th October 2017

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