By Mark Levitch, Founder and President
World War I Memorial Inventory Project
|The Buddies Memorial Today|
Of the hundreds of World War I memorial sculptures across the country, none has a more compelling origin story than Buddies—a deep relief of a soldier carrying a wounded comrade by Danish-born sculptor Viggo Brandt-Erichsen.
While working in Paris in the 1920s, Brandt-Erichsen married Dorothy Caldwell, a wealthy American who had spent summers in Jaffrey. Both Caldwell and their newborn daughter died soon after the child’s birth, but before she died, Caldwell had asked to be buried in Jaffrey. The sculptor crossed the ocean with his loved ones’ ashes and spent nearly two years carving an elaborate marker for his wife and daughter in the town’s Old Burial Ground. He quickly became a beloved figure in town.
|The Boulder Being Transported to the Jaffrey Town Common, 1928|
In 1928, Brandt-Erichsen proposed to create—gratis—a massive World War I memorial relief for the town. A partly buried but suitable 40-ton boulder was located a mile west of downtown; it took six weeks to transport it on rollers over frozen ground to the town common, where it was placed behind a World War I honor roll that had been erected in 1919. Volunteers constructed a rough shack around the boulder to protect the sculptor from the elements as he worked.
|Sculptor Viggo Brandt-Erichsen at the Dedication, 11 November 1930|
Brandt-Erichsen worked with an electric chisel and hand tools for two years to complete the relief. He used two local World War I veterans (both of whom are listed on the honor roll) as models. The eight-foot-tall standing soldier carries his wounded comrade even as he aims a pistol gripped in his right hand. The memorial’s title is engraved at its base: Buddies.
The completed memorial was dedicated on Armistice Day, 1930. Featured speakers included the governor and General Clarence Edwards, commander of the 26th (Yankee) Division, in which most of the Jaffrey men had served. Mrs. Carrie Humiston, the mother of the only Jaffrey soldier to be killed in action, unveiled the monument before an estimated crowd of 7,000.
|Crowd at the Dedication Ceremony, 11 November 1930|
The memorial is not an unqualified success aesthetically. The figures are ponderous and somewhat awkwardly proportioned, but what it lacks in polish is more than made up for in sincerity.