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Dick, Sir William Reid (1879-1961) Knight Sculptor

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Dick, Sir William Reid (1879-1961) Knight Sculptor
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Sir William Reid Dick was a Scottish sculptor. There are several files at The National Archives, Kew, associated with him.

File AIR 1/677/21/13/1891 gives us some background information on the Arras Memorials. It contains a draft of the Introduction to the Register of the Imperial War Graves Commission (now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission) written by their Director of Records, Major H.F. Chettle. Chettle’s covering letter is dated 18 March 1930.

Reid Dick sculpted the globe on top of the Arras Flying Services Memorial which is to be found at the Arras Cemetery in northern France along with the Arras Memorial. A photograph of this memorial is shown below. Reid Dick carved both the badges on the memorial and the great globe, which is 4 foot 6 inches in diameter and weighs almost three tons. The memorial consists of an obelisk with a globe forming a finial on the top. The badges are those of the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Air Force, Royal Naval Air Service, and the combined badges of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

The two memorials and cemetery, the work of Sir Edwin Lutyens, are situated in the western part of Arras. The Arras Memorial commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and August 1918, the eve of the so-called "Advance to Victory" and who have no known grave. The Arras Flying Services Memorial commemorates nearly 1,000 airmen of the Royal Naval Air Service, the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force either by attachment from other arms of the forces of the Commonwealth or by original enlistment, who were killed on the Western Front and who also have no known grave.

The Arras Flying Services Memorial includes amongst the men remembered a winner of the Victoria Cross, Edward "Mick" Mannock who died 26 July 1918 aged 31. We can view details of this award on the Victoria Cross listings available in DocumentsOnline

The Arras Memorial has amongst its names that of Walter Tull, the first black officer to serve in the British Army. A photograph is shown below of Tull’s name on the wall of the Arras Memorial. A remembrance poppy has been put next to the name.

File PRO 30/57/118 gives us information on the Kitchener Memorial Chapel in St Paul’s Cathedral which was also the work of Reid Dick. This file is available on microfilm and can be viewed in the Microfilm Reading Room at The National Archives.

Reid Dick also sculpted the decorative features which adorn the Menin Gate at Ypres, including the lion at the very top. The Menin Gate marks the start of one of the main roads leading from Ypres (Ieper) to the Front Line; the infamous "Menin Road".
Menin Gate, Ypres
The gate combines a classical victory arch and mausoleum. Inside and outside are carved the names of 54,896 officers and men of the Commonwealth forces who died in the Ypres salient and have no known grave. The Menin Gate was not in fact big enough to record all the names so was limited to those who died from the outbreak of war to 15th August 1917. The names of the further 34,888 men who died from 16th August 1917 to the end of the war and again have no known grave are recorded on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

A photograph of some of the many names on the Menin Gate is shown here. In this example we see the names of many men from the Indian Army.

Reid Dick was born in 1879 into a working class family in Glasgow. At the age of 12 he was apprenticed to a firm of Glasgow stonemasons, Scott and Rae. He learned to carve stone, including granite, at night school, and in 1899 registered at the Glasgow School of Art. He studied there at night until receiving a diploma in 1907. He became an art teacher and first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1908.

Having moved to London he attended evening classes at the Kennington School of Art.

In September of 1914, his reputation as a sculptor growing, he joined the Territorial Army and from 1915 to 1919 served with the Royal Engineers in France and Palestine.

Reid Dick’s Service Record has fortunately been preserved as part of the "Burnt Records" series and can be found under WO 363/MIS-SORTS 34/52.

From reading this file we see that when Reid Dick signed up on 1st September 1914 he joined the 5th London Field Ambulance section of the Royal Army Medical Corps with regimental number 1752. He was 34 years and 4 months of age, and gave his address as 1 St John’s Wood Studios, Queens Terrace, St John’s Wood. His wife Catherine was shown as "next of kin". Reid Dick subsequently transferred to the 3rd Army Field Survey Co, part of the Royal Engineers and then the 7th Field Survey Co. He was in this period allocated regimental numbers 536331 and 244831. He was described as a photographer with the 7th Field Survey Co. His Army Service record shows his profession as "sculptor".

We can also view his Medal Index Card under reference WO 372/6-52934/2976 [1]. We see that he was awarded the 1915 Star and the British and Victory Medals. Interesting to note that his medals were engraved with the Royal Army Medical Corps shown as his corps rather than the Royal Engineers.

Whilst in the trenches Reid Dick did many small carvings from chalk. Indeed the story is told that a padre, touring the trenches, saw Reid Dick at work, and by way of a compliment told Reid Dick that he might well consider taking up carving as a hobby!

As we now know William Dick Reid was to become one of our foremost sculptors!

In the Hertfordshire towns of Rickmansworth and Bushey, each only a few miles from the other, we can see some of Reid Dick’s finest work. The Rickmansworth War memorial, situated in the grounds of St Mary’s Church in Church Street, features two sculptures of women by Reid Dick these in a seated position one on the north face and the other on the south face. The original design of the memorial featured a pyramid at the top but this was amended to include a bronze lion slaying an eagle. In fact the memorial was originally positioned in Ebury Street but was moved to the churchyard following major new road construction and erection of new council offices. The lion and eagle are now on a plinth in the gardens by the council offices.

In the gallery of photographs below a study of one of the two women is included as are some photographs of the splendid bronze of the lion killing an eagle (no doubt meant to signify Imperial Germany). The lion and eagle were in fact removed in 1940 to avoid the risk of bomb damage but when the local people were asked to vote on whether it should be repositioned on the war memorial, now in St Mary’s, they voted against the idea and in 1978 thanks to the initiative of the First Rickmansworth Scout Group it was positioned in the council office gardens in Northway just up the road in fact from St Mary’s Church. Somehow I feel that the two works are better apart. The lion sculpture is robust and assertive whereas the two figures on the war memorial are poignant and reflective.

It is at Bushey, on the corner of Sparrows Herne and School Lane, that we see what I feel is Reid Dick’s finest work. This a sculpted figure of a woman in mourning with head bowed and her left hand delicately positioned under her chin. In her right hand she holds a wreath. She is clothed in loose robes and sandals and the figure is carved from Portland stone. “1914” and “1918” are carved on either side of the woman.


The Bushey War Memorial was unveiled on the 17th March 1922 by Lt General The Earl of Cavan. I understand that the same female figure was used for the private memorial which stands at Givenchy-de-la-Bassee in France which remembers Lt.H.G.E.Hill-Trevor of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards who was killed in action on 21st December 1914.

Amongst Reid Dick’s other works are:

1. A bust of George V for Westminster Abbey.

2. Sculpture of Franklin Delano Roosevelt which stands in Grosvenor Square. A photograph is shown below.

3. The sculpture “Lady Godiva” in Coventry. Some photographs taken in March of 2008 are shown below.

On the plinth below the statue are written some words from Tennyson's poem "Lady Godiva".


4. Two colossal stone groups for Unilever House called “Controlled Energy”. A photograph of one of these is shown below.

5. The Royal Air Force Memorial, Victoria Embankment, a photograph of which is shown below. The enormous eagle atop this memorial was the work of Reid Dick. This memorial was unveiled in 1923 by the Prince of Wales. His speech included the prophetic description of the RAF as “our cloud armies of the future”. The Royal Air Force Memorial was designed by the architect Sir Reginald Bloomfield.

6. Memorial to David Livingstone at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

7. Memorial to George V which stands opposite the Houses of Parliament. A photograph of this is shown below. This statue was unveiled by George VI on 22nd October 1947. File WORK 20/279 covers the appointment of Reid Dick and the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott to be responsible for this memorial. Files WORK 20/201, WORK 20/202, WORK 20/203 and WORK 20/278 all deal with this statue. The completion of the scheme was delayed by the outbreak of war in 1939. The statue was stored during the war in the quarry at Portland and returned to London in 1946. The statue was unveiled in 1947.

8. Bas-reliefs for Selfridges store in Oxford Street, London.

9. Figures for St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh.

10. The bronze “Herald” for the Reuters Building in Fleet Street, London.

11. The memorial to Lord Levershulme which stands outside the Lady Lever Art Gallery at Port Sunlight. Two photographs of the bronze figures at the base of the obelisk are shown below. Four figures stand together representing “Industry”, “Charity”, “Education” and “Art”. The figure on the top of the obelisk, looking to the sky with outstretched arms represents “Inspiration”. This memorial was completed in 1930 and honours William Hesketh ,the first Viscount Leverhulme who founded Lever Brothers Limited.

12. Figures above the entrance to Adelaide House, London Bridge. The figure is in drapes and holds an orb with a bronze astrological band.

The Tate Gallery has a bronze mask of a man entitled “Androdus” and the National Portrait Gallery have a bust of Lord Duveen both by Reid Dick.

Reid Dick died in 1961.

The National Archives also hold the following files linked to this sculptor:

File BP 4/1 Concerns the Royal Fine Art Commission and William Reid Dick’s membership thereof

File PREM 5/162 Appointment of William Reid Dick to the Royal Fine Art Commission.

File WORK 25/219 Contains photographs of the outdoor exhibition of sculpture at Kelvin Grove, Glasgow in 1949 including Sir William Reid Dick’s “Boy and Goose”