The Monuments Men

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Paul Kenneth Baillie Reynolds ( 1896-1973 )

Paul Kenneth Baillie Reynolds was a prominent British archaeologist and expert on Imperial Rome. Born in 1896 to a London stock broker and a female novelist, he developed a fascination for Classical history at a young age. However, his entry into college was interrupted by the start of World War I, during which he served in the Royal Field Artillery. He later served in the Royal Artillery from 1927 to 1939 and then again as a major from 1939 to 1945.

In 1919, Baillie Reynolds was at last able to begin his academic studies at Oxford, where he earned degrees from Winchester College and Hertford College. He moved to Italy in 1921 and spent the next two years excavating ancient Roman sites and aqueducts as Pelham Student at the British School at Rome. In 1924 he returned to Oxford as Assistant Master at Winchester College while also lecturing in ancient history at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth. He continued to lead excavations at many ancient Roman sites in Britain, and his resulting published reports remain today as hallmarks in Roman archaeology. The Vigiles of Imperial Rome (1926), an in-depth study of the firefighters and policemen of ancient Rome, led to his election to Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in London in 1929. In 1934, he was named Inspector of Ancient Monuments for the Ministry of Works.

While Inspector of Ancient Monuments, Baillie Reynolds was a member of an informal group of museum directors and art experts who approached the War Office in June 1943 with suggestions for the protection of historic monuments in Europe. One month later, Baillie Reynolds submitted his own memorandum which emphasized the distinction between monuments and moveable works of art and suggested that the Ministry of Works be involved in future planning.

Baillie Reynolds arrived in Naples, Italy in late 1943 as one of the first British Monuments Men in the field. In November, he was named temporary Acting Director of the Monuments Fine Arts & Archives Sub-Commission of the Allied Military Government in Occupied Territories (AMG). In this position, he was well-placed to give advice on matters affecting the work of the MFAA. He corresponded with Lt. Col. Sir Leonard Woolley, War Office Advisor on Monuments and Fine Arts, and the two combined their efforts to improve not only the status of the MFAA Sub-Commission but to also better define the role of Monuments Officers in relation to the Army.

In February 1944, Monuments Man Lt. Col Ernest T. DeWald assumed directorship of the MFAA Sub-Commission and Baillie Reynolds was able to return to work in the field. He was soon transferred to MFAA Headquarters in London alongside his former Deputy Director in Italy, the first formally designated Monuments Man, American Capt. Mason Hammond. On September 29, 1944, he was chosen to serve as an MFAA Officer with the Allied Military Mission to Belgium, one of three Country Missions operating under the authority of SHAEF in liberated European countries. He arrived at British Second Army Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on October 12, 1944. There, he completed the MFAA Handbook for Belgium as well as an extensive card index of important Belgian monuments in need of protection.

Tragedy befell Baillie Reynolds in early 1945 when his wife Janetta fell seriously ill. He was granted leave to visit her in England on January 12th and she died soon after on January 31st. Though he was originally granted nine days’ leave, this was extended three times on compassionate grounds. He did not return to work in Belgium until February 12th. In a heartbreaking personal letter to fellow Monuments Man Maj. Ronald Balfour, Baillie Reynolds wrote that “In the circumstances I am trying to get out of the Army to reconstruct a home for my three children. So I am not heart and soul in my job just now.”

Despite great personal tragedy, Baillie Reynolds played a crucial role in the protection of Belgian cultural heritage. He liaised closely with Col. Léo Van Puyvelde, Director General des Beaux Arts under the Belgian Ministry of Public Instruction, to restrict the quartering of Allied troops in Belgian chateaux. The pair inspected every chateau on the Official List of Protected Monuments in Luxembourg as well as other areas across Belgium, and submitted to SHAEF an additional list of 181 chateaux for which special protection was requested. At each chateau, Baillie Reynolds filed a report with his recommendations for its better protection and even ejected troops if the property was being damaged or mistreated. While he was on leave in England, SHAEF approved his list of 181 chateaux and issued an official order for their protection.

Soon after returning home to England and his three beloved children, Baillie Reynolds returned to the Ministry of Works. He was appointed Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments in 1954, a title which he retained until 1961. Also during this time, he was elected to the Order of the British Empire in 1950 and was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1957. Toward the end of his long and successful career, he served as President of the Royal Archaeological Institute from 1963-1966.

Paul Baillie Reynolds died in England on August 21, 1973.