Rothenstein Mural CREDIT Uni of Southampton

Student Union Leader Apologises Over Vows To Paint Over WWI Mural

The Rothenstein Mural depicts students who died during the Great War collecting the degrees they were unable to finish.

Rothenstein Mural CREDIT Uni of Southampton

The Rothenstein Mural was painted in 1916 (Picture: Southampton University).

The University of Southampton Student Union's President has apologised after vowing to paint over a "mural of white men" which commemorates the fallen from the First World War.

The Rothenstein Mural is a memorial to members of the British universities serving in the Great War.

Emily Dawes first said in a tweet: "Mark my words - we're taking down the mural of white men in the uni Senate room, even if I have to paint over it myself."

Since sending the tweet, there has been an online petition to force Ms Dawes to stand down as Student Union President at the University of Southampton.

So far it's reached over 12,000 signatures.

The young soldiers in the mural are depicted collecting the degrees they were unable to finish.

It was painted by Sir William Rothenstein, former Principal of the Royal College of Art, and presented to the University of Southampton by his son in 1959.

Rothenstein Mural CREDIT Uni of Southampton
The work features many key academics from the era of the Great War, including Vice-Chancellors and Chancellors, and the Poet Laureate Robert Bridges (Picture: University of Southampton).

She has then posted an apology on Twitter, saying: "I would like to apologise for the offense and upset I have caused with what I have said.

"I never meant the disrespect to anyone past, present and future.

"I had no intention of the tweet being taken literally, and upon reflection have realised how inappropriate it was."

"My intention was to promote strong, female leadership and not the eradication and disrespect of history.

"I do not believe that to make progress in the future, we should look to erase the past.

"Once again, I would like to apologise for the offence and upset I have caused."

The mural is particularly poignant in view of the forthcoming centenary of the Armistice, which ended the Great War in 1918.

Ms Dawes' proclamations have left many outraged.

One Twitter user replied: "Yes for some reason war heroes are being targeted. I will always be proud of our armed services, current and veterans. Those that died and who were injured make me burst with pride. #poppypride"

Another user said: “Remember the image you wish to remove represents those who gave their lives in war for their country and never got to collect their degree.

"Each figure is a son from a grieving mother #RemembranceDay is for those who have no graves to visit and to make sure society doesn’t forget"

The University of Southampton said in a statement that they do not agree with the Student Union leader's comments: 

“The comments made by the Students’ Union President regarding the Rothenstein Mural are not shared by the University of Southampton and do not represent the views of the University community.

“We are very proud to display the Mural, painted in 1916, which serves as a memorial to all members of British universities who served in the Great War (World War I).”