The Le Quesnoy Sculpture
The centrepiece of the battle exploit memorial at Le Quesnoy is the bas relief sculpture placed opposite the Garden of Memory. The sculpture brings together the ideas of four different artists: Fortunino Matania, Seager, Alexander Fraser and Félix-Alfred Desruelles.
Fraser produced a clay model of the working design for the government’s approval in 1922, and his involvement with the sculpture ended here. While he was keen to have Fraser produce the final sculpture, Sir James Allen considered it an act of friendly cooperation to select a French sculptor. This came at the suggestion of the mayor of Le Quesnoy, Daniel Vincent, who was also Minister of Public Works in the French government, and had been instrumental in gaining the military’s permission to make alterations to the medieval rampart for the project.
Although Seager was critical of the war memorials depicting busy scenes of active battle, in what he called the “snapshot” type of sculpture, the location and circumstances surrounding the original event demanded a different approach from that used at the other battle exploit memorials. Here, his strictures on the dramatic ‘freeze-frame’ approach were outweighed by the fact that the sculpture directly reminds us of an action that took place on the same wall, near to where it was to be installed.
Both Fraser and Desruelles have their names inscribed in the bottom right corner of the sculpture. One of New Zealand’s official war artists, George Edmund Butler, also depicted the scaling of the ramparts in his painting Capture of the walls of Le Quesnoy (1920). Butler located the action at the exact spot where it originally took place, some 20m north of the New Zealand memorial.