Charles Sargeant Jagger was born in Kilnhurst, South Yorkshire on 17th December, 1885. He left school aged fourteen to learn the craft of engraving on silver with the Sheffield firm of Mappin and Webb. He also studied at the Sheffield School of Art in the evenings before in 1907 he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art, South Kensington.
In 1914 Jagger won the Rome scholarship in sculpture. However, the outbreak of the First World War led him to turn his back on this opportunity and instead enlist as a humble private in the Artists’ Rifles. On the 23rd September 1915 he set sail with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force for Gallipoli. He was by then a 2nd Lieutenant in the 13th Battalion Royal Worcesters. Jagger described their send-off at Plymouth as “magnificent” and as “one of the greatest days I shall live to see.” Little could have prepared him for the conditions under which he was to serve. In a letter to his girlfriend Jagger wrote:
“We have got many men who fought in France and I believe they would sell their souls almost to get back to Flanders again. You people at home have no idea what sort of Hell this is. It strikes me as being the home of the damned.”
On the 5th November, he was shot through the left shoulder and evacuated first to a hospital in Malta and then back to England. Once recovered he married Violet Constance Smith before he was sent out to the Western Front where he was wounded again in 1918. In recognition of his valour, he was awarded the Military Cross.
As the Armistice was declared on November 11th 1918, a convalescing Jagger heard that the British War Memorials Committee were looking for sculptors who had first hand experience of the war. Jagger immediately realised he could use his experiences to create works that would honour those who had died and later admitted that it was the horror of Gallipoli, not the trenches in France, which most influenced the work he would undertake.
Jagger was to win many commissions around the world, however, he is best known for two war memorials in Westminster; the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner and the Great Western Railway War Memorial in Paddington Railway Station. Both of these works reflected Jagger’s desire for his memorials to be realistic portrayals of the men who had fought, and would also show, controversially, depictions of dead soldiers, something the government was keen to avoid. Two of Jagger’s realistic figures from the Royal Artillery memorial were recast and now form part of the shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, Australia