The Response

Statue Newcastle City Centre Tyne And Wear

The Response

Statue In Newcastle City Centre, Tyne And Wear

A war memorial to the Northumberland Fusiliers sited on the grounds of St Thomas the Martyr Church at Barras Bridge, depicting the spirit and patriotic confidence that swept the nation at the outset of war in 1914.

'The Response' is a war memorial sited on the grounds of St Thomas the Martyr Church at Barras Bridge, it is a poignant depiction of the spirit and patriotic confidence that swept the nation at the outset of war in 1914. The sculpture shows soldiers bidding farewell to loved ones as they march off to war. At the front of the memorial drummer boys lead Northumberland Fusiliers and the ordinary working men of the district, some carrying tools, some carrying rifles, while children beckon the men on.

Although the title of the memorial refers to the original 1914 'call to arms' it is thought that the subject of the sculpture is based on the massing of the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers (The Fighting Fifth) in April 1915 when they gathered at Gosforth and, led by drummer boys, marched down the Great North Road, through Haymarket and to Central Station and then on to the battlefields of Europe.

The memorial was given by the local ship owner and MP for Newcastle Central, Sir George Renwick and Lady Renwick to commemorate the raising of the B Company 9th Battalion and 16th, 17th and 19th Service Battalions (or 'Pals Battalions') of the Northumberland Fusiliers by the Newcastle and Gateshead Chamber of Commerce late in 1914. It was also raised to celebrate Sir George Renwick's attainment of 50 years of commercial life in Newcastle and the safe return of the Renwick's five sons from 'The Great War'.

'The Response' was inaugurated on the 5th July 1923 by HRH The Prince of Wales before a huge crowd of spectators and a guard of honour from the Northumberland Fusiliers as well as other ex-soldiers and sailors. The memorial was re-dedicated on the 25th October 2007 in the presence of Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh and holds Grade I listed status.

The designer of 'The Response' was Sir William Goscombe John, a graduate of the Royal Academy and former student of Rodin, and his creation led the former Director General of the Imperial War Museum to describe it as “... one of the finest sculptural ensembles on any British monument...”. The model for the drummer boys is thought to be Wilfred John Matthews who enlisted in 1919 with the Coldstream Guards while a newspaper article, signed by Goscombe John and given to Wilfred, suggests that many of the other faces were drawn from Identity Certificate photographs so probably depict actual people too.

The rear of the monument shows a number of relief sculptures of an original Northumberland Fusilier from 1647 and one from 1919 with St George in the centre between them. St George and the Dragon has formed part of the regimental badge since its earliest days.

An inscription to the front reads 'Non sibi sed patriae' which is Latin for 'Not for himself, but for his country', followed by the name of the sculpture, 'The Response 1914'. On the rear face, inscriptions read;

 'Quo fata vocant' ('Whither the fates call'), the motto of the Northumberland Fusiliers, and: 

'To commemorate the raising of the B Company 9th Battalion and the 16th, 18th and 19th Service Battalions, Northumberland Fusiliers, by the Newcastle and Gateshead Chamber of Commerce August-October 1914 The gift of Sir George Renwick BT DL and Lady Renwick MCMXXIII'

Though we all know now that this early confidence and patriotism may have reduced as 'The Great War' ground into stalemate and its full horrors were realised, it is worth noting that The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers raised 52 Battalions throughout the 1914 - 1919 conflict, more than any other Regiment.

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Where Is The Response

Where Is It?

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54.978614, -1.61281
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Cross over St Mary's Place heading towards the Civic Centre and the Church of St Thomas the Martyr, head through the Civic Centre gardens and the memorial can be found on Barras Bridge opposite the University building at King's Gate.

Where To Park?

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54.977913, -1.609757

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There is parking nearby at St Mary's Place, as well as in other city centre car parks.

Andrew Gardner

Contributed by Andrew Gardner

I love being outdoors, in nature, and experiencing the relaxation it brings. Wandering through the northern countryside seeing unexpected buildings, historic places and occasionally surprised wildlife is one of life's great pleasures.

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