This Moving Art Installation Will Commemorate Soldiers Lost At The Somme


Shrouds of the Somme pays tribute to the battle’s unknown dead.

With the centenary of Armistice Day approaching, London is ramping up the touching tributes to those lost in World War I. A cascade of poppies is in place at the Imperial War Museum, and flames are set to burn in the Tower of London’s moat, but further east, another art installation will honour the soldiers who gave their lives fighting for Britain. Shrouds of the Somme will create a field of shrouded bodies, each one representing a British or Commonwealth soldier killed at the battle, and whose bodies were never recovered.

Photo: @shroudsofthesomme

The result will be a striking scene; 72,396 shrouds will be laid out in Stratford’s Olympic Park shoulder to shoulder, covering a staggering 4000 square metres. Created by Somerset-based artist Rob Heard, Shrouds of the Somme aims to physicalise the losses of the battle. Each shroud is painstakingly hand-stitched, filled with a 12-inch figurine, and linked to the name of a lost soldier. As the wrapping of the shrouds twists the figures into various poses, each one is completely unique.

Photo: @shroudsofthesomme

The project has previously appeared as a 45-metre long trench, or laid out in a group of 1561 – one for each day of the war, with the casualties of each day recorded on an adjoining cross. It has visited the likes of Exeter, Belfast, and the Thiepval Memorial in France (where the names of the lost soldiers are recorded), and London is the final stop. It’s also the first time all the shrouds will be displayed together. You can find them in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from November 8th-18th, and the installation is free to attend. Much like the Tower of London’s poppies, the figures will be sold off after the installation has finished, raising money for The Armed Forces Charity and the Commonwealth War Graves Foundation – they are available here.

Photo: @shroudsofthesomme

The effort and care that has gone into this memorial makes it a breathtaking attempt to visualise the loss and suffering of one of history’s bloodiest battles. We’d strongly recommend paying it a visit when it hits the capital next month.

Find the installation at Olympic Park, Stratford, E20 2ST. See more about Shrouds of the Somme on their website.

Featured image: @shroudsofthesomme

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