10 November 2017

CWGC joins forces with Shrouds of the Somme to launch First World War legacy project

In collaboration with Shrouds of the Somme, the Commission is gathering stories and images for the more than 72,000 casualties commemorated on the CWGC Thiepval Memorial, as part of a major project commemorating Armistice Day in 2018.

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The Shrouds of the Somme project aims to bring home the sheer scale of human sacrifice in the battle that came to epitomise the bloodshed of the 1914-18 war – the Battle of the Somme.

To mark the centenary of the end of the First World War in 2018, 72,396 shrouded figures will be laid out in London to represent every name on the Thiepval Memorial.

Through the collation of photos and details of the lives of the casualties commemorated on the largest Commonwealth war memorial in the world – The CWGC Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme in France – we will humanise the names and help future generations discover and cherish the stories of those who gave their today for our tomorrow.

Liz Woodfield, the CWGC’s Director of Information and Communications, said: “We are delighted to support Shrouds of the Somme. Our memorial at Thiepval is an awe-inspiring sight. Designed by the great architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and described as the absolute, ultimate pure monument, Thiepval was the practical and artistic response to the loss of so many men with no known grave in the immediate aftermath of the First World War.

“Each year, tens of thousands of visitors make the pilgrimage to Thiepval. Some come out of curiosity, others to see a particular name, but all depart moved by the experience.

“This initiative will put a human face to the names engraved in stone and will help future generations discover and cherish the stories of those who gave their today for all our tomorrows.”

Somerset artist Rob Heard has had the painstaking task of making more than 72,000 hand-stitched shrouds, each wrapped around a 12-inch figure, one for each of the servicemen commemorated on Thiepval.

Rob said: “I tried to count out loud the number killed in just one day at the Somme, but ran out of steam at about 1,500. As I go through the process of putting the figure within the shroud, I cross a name off. It’s vitally important that each is associated with a name, otherwise the individual gets lost in the numbers.”

Your stories, images and diary extracts can be uploaded to the CWGC website, where they will also be shared, creating a digital archive.

Project Chairman Cdre Jake Moores OBE DL appealed for members of the public to get involved. He said: “Remembering those thousands who fell as individual men is crucial to honouring their sacrifice - but so little is known about so many of them. 

“We are calling out to the nation. Asking them to send us photos and stories of these remarkable men - these fathers, husbands, brothers.

“Tell us who they were, where they were from, what they did – make them real, give them dignity. Bringing the individual to the forefront of these unimaginable numbers will help the nation to truly understand the scale of the loss of those who gave their all.”

Throughout 2018 Shrouds of the Somme will play a central role as the commemorations of the 100th anniversary go nationwide and culminate in the landmark Armistice Day on 11 November. 

As the anniversary approaches, each shroud will be laid out at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and displayed in what will be an unprecedented piece of public commemorative art. The scale of the sacrifices will be laid bare as the small figures fill more than 5,000 square metres on show for members of the public to pay their respects.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “As we reach the centenary of the end of the First World War, it’s vital that we remember the service and sacrifices made by our Armed Forces. The Battle of the Somme is one of the darkest moments in British military history and the ‘Shrouds of the Somme’ will be a fitting and powerful tribute to the bravery and selflessness of the thousands killed and affected by the conflict. I’m proud that we are able to host this artwork in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and hope that many Londoners and those from further afield will be able to visit this extraordinary memorial to reflect on the horrors of war.”

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