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Installation of shrouded figures honours fallen soldiers of the Somme

AOL 2018-11-07 23:53:49

Thousands of shrouded figures representing soldiers killed in the Battle of the Somme have been laid out for an art installation in London.

Artist Rob Heard hand stitched and bound the calico covering 72,396 figures now lying on an area about the size of a football pitch at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Each 12in figure represents a named Commonwealth soldier who died on the Somme battlefields between 1916 and 1918 but has no known grave.

Volunteers and members of 1 Royal Anglian Regiment laid out the field of figures in hundreds of rows in the shadow of the London Stadium.

It took Mr Heard 18 months to create the shrouded figures, often working 12 to 14 hours a day on the project.

Captain James Pugh places a figure among the installation Shrouds of the Somme (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

He said the “absolute key” to his creation was that every figure represented a named fallen soldier, many of whose bodies were never recovered from the battlefield.

“I found quite early on that I personally had quite a strong relationship with these men, in that I had huge lists of their names, photographs and physical figures themselves,” Mr Heard said.

Rob Heard (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

“I think the idea that they are still laying out in the fields being turned by the plough each year now, if we could bring them back and lay them on home soil just one more time in a small way, I felt that was really important.”

More than 200,000 people are expected to visit the free-to-enter art installation between November 8 and 18.

Members of the public will be able to purchase the shrouded figures, with profits being donated to SSAFA The Armed Forces Charity and the Commonwealth War Graves Foundation.

The Shrouds of the Somme installation (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The installation has been unveiled as people prepare to mark 100 years since the end of the First World War on Armistice Day, November 11.

The Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest of the 1914 to 1918 conflict, claiming the lives of around 20,000 British soldiers on the first day alone.