141 Days – The Somme
On the 1st of July 1916 (Z day), at Zero hours the whistles blew all along the front line. Troops and officers scrambled up ladders to go over the top. There was no running. Instead, troops were ordered to walk towards enemy lines. Met with relentless and continuous machine gun fire, thousands of brave men were cut down in minutes.
By the end of that first day, 19,240 british soldiers had lost their lives and the casualty figure was an overwhelming 57,470. It is the highest number of casualties suffered by the british army in a single day, the worst day in British military history, but the battle raged on until the 18th of November. When it ended more than a million men from both sides had died or been injured.
Many of the soldiers who had signed up were everyday young men from close-knit communities across the UK who subsequently suffered horrible losses. They were good friends, neighbours and colleagues who signed up together on the promise they would serve alongside each other. It sounded easy. These patriotic volunteers were sold on the romance of war, “Your Country Needs You”, and became known as the ‘Pals’ battalions.
To mark this centenary, British sculptor Nic Joly, is placing 141 bronze figures holding poppies, on 141 memorials all over the country as well as on memorials abroad.
The polished bronze figures stand 50mm tall with their red poppies. The figures will not be attached in any way to the memorials, they will simply stand somewhere on the memorial (possibly slightly hidden), looking out at the world, reminding us that every life lost was a golden one.
This installation is about awareness, making people stop, remember, and think about what happened 100 years ago.
The 141 locations are to be a secret, so that people go looking for the figures all over the country and abroad, and are reminded of the memorials to our lost soldiers.
On the 29th of June, the BBC aired a film about this installation. This is when the public will be called to action on prime time television, to go looking at the memorials that are in their locality.