In the 6 days since the Shrouds campaign launched, a striking and humbling element is how many people want to remember a specific lost relative and the sense of grief that their words impart.
The pledge that includes receiving a named and framed shroud, after the exhibition is one of the most popular and people are sending us their stories, photos, names and service numbers.
“My Great Uncle was Private John Murray G/13157. He started to make a hand mirror for his favourite sister (my grandmother) before leaving for the war, saying he would finish it when he returned. It is still uncompleted and I have the set of mourning beads she wore for him.” (wishes to remain anonymous)
“My Grandmother always told me that my Great Grandfather (my mother’s grandfather) had died on the Somme; it was only after her death did I find out that Private 16628 William May died on the first day of the conflict. I believe his Royal Berkshire Regiment Battalion were one of the first “to go over the top”. Rather sadly it is highly unlikely that he ever required a shroud as he remained on the battlefield along-side numerous others: ‘Lost in Action/ Presumed Dead’ for the last 100 years.” From Great Grandson Robert
The stories are deeply moving, and there is (for me) a deep need to say the names aloud, and take a moment to imagine their lives and what they must have gone through.
Our relatives, however distant live on in us. You can find out whether your relative is one of the 72,396 by searching on our online database here:
World War One ended almost 100 years ago, roughly 20 million men were killed from around the globe. Each one of our families would have been affected in some way by this devastation. It is also perfectly possible that one of your relatives could be one of the 72,396 who died but whose bodies were left on the battlefields of the Somme. There were only 50 “thankful parishes” in the whole country who welcomed all their sons home alive at the end of the war.
Rob is creating Shrouds of the Somme to help us visualise what these big numbers really mean, and for us to regain the ability to connect this impossible vastness with individual members of families, and in a small way to reconnect us with our lost relatives.
In 2016 he exhibited 19,240 shrouded figures, representing all those that died on the first day of battle.
This campaign now is to raise the funds for him to make 72,396 to represent those British soldiers who died but whose bodies were not recovered, and to exhibit it in London. It will be almost 4 times the size of the 2016 exhibitions.
The installation would stretch for a quarter of kilometre. But the importance and the poignancy lies in each individual unique figure. Every single shroud represents a man who has a name, a story and loved ones all of whom would have been left devastated by the loss.
And this is relevant to each of us, because those men are connected to us, directly or indirectly. They are all part of our collective shared history, they helped make us who we are today. They make up part of our identity.
If you do find the name of a Fallen soldier connected to your family, you can pledge on our crowdfunding site, specify his name and following the exhibition you will receive a shrouded figure (framed or unframed) with a certificate of authentication, name and regiment to honour him.
There are also many other rewards to choose from, such as a photo commemoration book, having your name etched onto a supporters board at the exhibition, a private view – even a tour on a submarine!
Shrouds of the Somme will only be possible if people pledge to help make it happen. Crowdfunding is a way of coming together to collectively say ‘yes, we want this’. In 6 days we have raised just over £14k out of £150k needed – there is a long way to go and we need your help. Every penny counts.
Please be part of making this exhibition happen, so that we keep the memory of those lives lost in the minds of all of us living today.