Artist cre­at­ing fi­nal shrouds for war dis­play

Western Daily Press - - News - MARTIN FREE­MAN news@west­erndai­ly­press.co.uk

ASOMERSET artist is work­ing flat out to com­plete a cen­tre­piece of the na­tional com­mem­o­ra­tions of the end of the First World War.

Rob Heard is cre­at­ing 72,396 minia­ture shrouds – one for ev­ery Bri­tish ser­vice­man and South African in­fantry­man killed dur­ing the Bat­tle of the Somme who have no known grave.

He has 4,000 more to make for the dis­play at the Queen El­iz­a­beth Olympic Park in Lon­don, which marks the 100th an­niver­sary of Ar­mistice Day on Novem­ber 11 – one month away.

The col­lec­tion must be com­pleted by Novem­ber 1 so the in­stal­la­tion can be as­sem­bled in time for the Novem­ber 8 open­ing, which means he must make 200 a day.

“It is go­ing re­ally, re­ally well,” he said. “Four thou­sand is not as de­mand­ing as it sounds.”

Princess Anne will visit the Shrouds of the Somme on Novem­ber 15 and more than 3,000 chil­dren are booked to see the dis­play, which will run to Novem­ber 18.

The project be­gan five years ago when Mr Heard, of Watchet, Somerset, read about the ca­su­al­ties at the Bat­tle of the Somme, the blood­i­est in Bri­tish mil­i­tary his­tory, in which 19,240 Al­lied lives were lost on the first day alone – July 1, 1916.

Un­able to com­pre­hend what 19,240 looked like, Mr Heard be­gan to make shrouds for 12-inch ar­tic­u­lated fig­ures to “phys­i­calise” that num­ber.

With the help of his friend, the mu­si­cian Steve Knight­ley, of the Ex­eter duo Show of Hands, the per­sonal and pri­vate project be­came 19240 Shrouds of the Somme, a pub­lic in­stal­la­tion that drew 50,000 visi­tors to North­ern­hay Gar­dens in Ex­eter in 2016 and a fur­ther 90,000 when the work was shown later in Bris­tol.

Sup­ported by 6 Ri­fles, the project has raised £54,000 for Armed Forces char­i­ties.

A smaller ver­sion has been laid out in a Western Front-style trench, on dis­play at Aero­space Bris­tol, which con­tin­ues un­til Sun­day.

Mr Heard, 53, has put his work as a wood crafts­man on hold to com­plete the project, which will cover 4,000 square me­tres.

“It is im­por­tant for me to see the fig­ures laid out, for the peo­ple killed – who are un­der the ploughed fields of the Somme – to be given that dig­nity,” he said. “The men who were killed in the First World War died in these ter­ri­ble ‘meat grinder’ bat­tles at the Somme, Ypres and Ver­dun.”

The fig­ures are on sale at shrouds ofthe­somme.com to sus­tain the project, with prof­its go­ing to SSAFA The Armed Forces Char­ity and the Com­mon­wealth War Graves Foun­da­tion.

Rob Heard along­sidehis mov­ing cre­ation

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