Installation originally intended to help with church repairs
A ‘HAUNTING’ art installation originally created to honour the men of Penshurst who laid down their lives during the First World War has inspired a nationwide campaign to mark the centenary of the 1918 armistice.
Entitled ‘There, But Not There’ the original installation, set in Penshurst Church, depicted 51 life-size, clear Perspex silhouettes of the servicemen from the village who had fallen in the conflict.
The project, which was opened to the public in November 2016, was the brainchild of local photographer Martin Barraud who modelled the silhouettes on four photographs of First World War soldiers from the village sitting in uniform.
They were then placed among the pews, which not only allowed visitors to sit beside them, but also gave people a visual perspective on the magnitude of the loss of life.
Information on their lives was also provided to honour the contribution they made to the community.
His inspirational work – which was originally intended to help raise money for repairs to Penshurst Church – was expanded across the country last week through a campaign led by former Chief of the General Staff, Lord Richard Dannatt which aims to raise £15million for armed forces and mental health charities.
Commenting on its expansion to other towns and villages across the UK, Mr Barraud said: “After the original installation I was approached to take it much wider in 2018 and made the decision go ahead.
“It has taken a year and a half of solid hard work by the veterans working at the Royal British Legion Industries in Aylesford who have been making all the Perspex figures. They have been amazing and they get a real buzz out of the work.”
Mr Barraud said the purpose of the installation is to ‘commemorate, educate and heal’, adding he feels ‘beyond humbled’ that it has now gone nationwide.
“I hope it spreads the message that we need to reflect on the past and cherish those who are either serving right now or have served in their lifetimes,” he said.
“The poppies captured the start of the national WWI commemoration – There But Not There will be the abiding concluding image.”
Since February 28, Perspex ‘Tommies’ have appeared in sentry boxes usually manned by Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London, on Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland, at Big Pit National Coal Museum in Blaenavon, South Wales and at Heart of Midlothian Football Club in Edinburgh.
There, But Not There patron Lord Dannatt, who oversaw the installation of 888,246 ceramic poppies in the moat around the Tower of London in his former role as Constable of the Tower said: “The poppies captured the start of the national WWI commemoration – There But Not There will be the abiding concluding image.”
Alongside the silhouettes, which will be touring the country until Armistice Day on November 11, members of the public are being encouraged to buy their own 10inch versions to remember their own relatives.
More than £1million was raised from the sale of these commemorative figures in the first 24 hours alone – money which is set to be distributed evenly among a number of military charities.
Lord Dannat, who spent 40 years in the armed forces himself, added: “In buying the Tommies and silhouettes, people are not only commemorating the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers, they are also supporting the veterans of today, with all profits going to charities supporting the armed forces community.”
The campaign has also won the backing of Birdsong novelist Sebastian Faulkes who said: “One hundred years ago this country offered its best young men to the war. These haunting figures allow us to give thanks for the ultimate sacrifice these men made for our country.”
A comment by Brigadier Steve Sherry CMG OBE, Chief Executive of Royal British Legion Industries:
“There But Not There has not only caught the public imagination but is inspiring our veterans and fellow workers in our vibrant social enterprise, Britain’s Bravest Manufacturing Company, as we all ramp up the production to meet the our growing demand for Tommies.
“The installation is beautifully designed and, with great poignancy , honour the brave men and women of our Armed Forces. It’s because of this that we encourage more charities and commercial organisations to support current veterans in employment and ‘Buy Social’ from Britain’s Bravest Manufacturing Company at Royal British Legion Industries.”
Where to buy your Tommy
Those wishing to support the cause by buy their own ten inch Perspex model can purchase one online at shop.therebutnotthere.org.uk. Each keepsake costs £29.99 and comes in commemorative packaging.
From the summer, communities will be also be able to apply for grants of up to £500 to purchase a small number of silhouettes that can be placed in places of worship and community spaces, courtesy of the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust.
The profits from the sale of the Tommies will enable Remembered to support the following charities: The Royal Foundation: Heads Together, Walking With The Wounded, Combat Stress, Help for Heroes, The Commonwealth War Graves Foundation and Project Equinox: Housing Veterans.
Why were the silhouettes first made?
The idea was proposed at the start of 2016 by photographer Martin Barraud in his capacity as a member of Friends of Penshurst Church.
The group itself was set seven years prior to raise £700,000 to refurbish and repair the church, a target which has since been met.
Mr Barraud’s concept was enthusiastically embraced by other members of the group and by the Rector of St John the Baptist Church in Penshurst, Rev Tom Holme.
Members of the public were able to view the finished installation on November 1 that year a date chosen as it marked the day Penshurst lost its first man in the war, in 1914.