Shrouds of the Somme
Of the 19,240 allied soldiers that fell on the first day of the Somme, some 12,000 were never found. In total the bodies of 72,396 British servicemen (and South African infantrymen) were never recovered from the battlefields. Once the Somme 19240 project was complete Rob felt compelled to represent all of the soldiers whose remains still lay in distant fields. He continued working to create an additional 60,000 shrouded figures to add to 12,000 of the 19,240 figures so that each of the 72,396 soldiers that were lost during the battle would be remembered.
“All these men are laying on the battlefield to this day and in some small way I would like to bring them home“.
All 72,396 Shrouds were on display in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the first and only time in November 2018 to mark the centenary of Armistice Day.
“It will be like nothing else – quarter of a kilometre of bodies laid out in rows, hopefully somewhere central where they will be seen by hundreds of thousands of people, reminding them of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
The Creative Process
As with the original Somme 19240 project, each of the figures had a name, taken from a list of the fallen provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Rob contemplated each name as he wrapped each figure:
“As I go through the process of putting the figure within the shroud, I cross a name off. It’s vitally important that each is associated with a name, otherwise the individual gets lost in the numbers.”
The Shrouds of the Somme project supported several charities and has its own dedicated team and website. Some of the Shrouds were exhibited at Salisbury Cathedral in June, some were exhibited in Belfast in August/September and they were all on display for the first and only time at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London from 8th-18th November 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1. You can find out more about the shrouds on the official Shrouds of the Somme website.
Rob also created The Trench – a different way of displaying the Shrouds of the Somme collection so that they could be displayed in different environments and tour different areas of the UK and abroad. The Trench debuted in Exeter on 30th June – 8th July and was on display at Aerospace Bristol in Filton, South Gloucestershire from 29th September – 14th October 2018.