Sand por­traits hon­our lo­cal war he­roes on British beaches

The Daily Telegraph - - First World War Armistice centenary - By Vic­to­ria Ward

WHEN the icy, un­for­giv­ing tide washes over the face of John Mc­cance to­mor­row morn­ing, the mo­ment will be laden with par­tic­u­lar sig­nif­i­cance for one small group of on­look­ers.

Mem­bers of the young sol­dier’s ex­tended fam­ily will meet at Mur­lough Beach in Co Down for the first time, brought to­gether as their rel­a­tive, who per­ished at Pass­chen­daele and has no known grave, be­comes a sym­bol of the cen­te­nary com­mem­o­ra­tions.

The 22-year-old’s por­trait, etched in the sand, is one of many that will be swept away by the sea in Pages of the Sea, a project de­vised by Danny Boyle, the Os­car-win­ning film di­rec­tor, as the UK marks the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of the First World War. For Richard Mc­cance, 41, an IT con­sul­tant, it will be a bit­ter­sweet day.

John Mc­cance was his great-un­cle, a man af­ter whom his fa­ther was named and whose pho­to­graph, as he posed proudly in his uni­form, hung on the wall of his great-aunt’s home.

Around 12 mem­bers of his fam­ily, most of whom do not know each other, will meet at the beach to­mor­row for the first time, some trav­el­ling from Scot­land. Mr Mc­cance told The Daily Tele­graph: “I grew up in New­cas­tle, just a mile away from the beach, and went to it many times, as I’m sure John Mc­cance did… He could never have imag­ined that one day his face would be in the sand.”

Across Bri­tain, lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties will watch as por­traits of lo­cal men and women who gave their lives for their coun­try are sym­bol­i­cally lost.

At 32 beaches from the Shet­land Is­lands to Corn­wall, com­mu­ni­ties will be able to gather and watch their beaches trans­formed by lo­cal artists be­fore the tide comes in. The 160 vol­un­teers have been trained by Sand in Your Eye, a col­lec­tive that cre­ated the large-scale por­traits to be sten­cilled on to the sand.

Among those com­mem­o­rated will be Wal­ter Tull, the first black of­fi­cer to com­mand white troops, who will be re­mem­bered in Ayr, and Wil­fred Owen, the cel­e­brated war poet, who swam in the sea in Folke­stone, Kent, the day be­fore he left for the front for the sec­ond time in Sept 1918. His mother re­ceived a tele­gram in­form­ing her of his death on Armistice Day.

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