WHAT: Ferdinand Foch
WHERE: Lower Grosvenor Gardens (map)
BY WHOM: Georges Malissard
Within the (slightly grotty) public space of Lower Grosvenor Gardens, facing the forecourt of Victoria Station, is the statue of a man on horseback.
This is Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929), Marshal of France, ‘Generalissimo’ (Supreme Commander) of the Allied Forces in WWI, and the only Frenchman to be made a Field Marshal of the British Army.
A significant commander throughout the Great War, it was Foch who accepted the German cessation of hostilities in November 1918 that would lead to the Armistice.
After Foch’s death in 1929 the statue was commissioned from the sculptor Georges Malissard – a replica of one that he had done in 1928 in Cassel in France – and unveiled by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) on 5 June 1930. (You can see a Pathe News film of the unveiling here.)
Cast in bronze and 3.2m high (and on a 3.8m portland stone pedestal) it was deliberately positioned at the south end of the gardens so that it would be seen by French passengers arriving into Victoria on the cross-channel boat train.
Malissard (1877-1942) was famous as an equestrian sculptor, crafting work of horses, jockeys and polo players, and then, post WWI, significant military men on horseback, including the French marshals Foch, Petain and Lyautey. Online biographies also mention sculptures of Haig, Pershing and even George V, but I’ve been unable to track down and images or details of these works.
The Foch statue was given Grade II listing in 1958, and promoted to II* in 2016.