Tag Archives: WWI

We Are Dreamers 2018


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As some of you may know, I’ve been working on an art installation with Arc to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War.

There will be hundreds of ‘dream’ boxes from local children, adults and artists depicting their dreams and aspirations.

Ten of the boxes, (of which mine is one), will honour the life of a Stockport soldier who lost his (or her), life.

The point of these ten boxes is to honour these people as human beings who had lives outside of being a soldier. In fact, this is what made up the vast majority of their lives. And they had dreams and aspirations too. What would have become of them?

 

The soldier I picked lived locally to me in Heaton Mersey. His name was Herbert Jackson. He worked for Cheshire Lines Railway in Cheadle Heath and played several instruments in the Heaton Mersey Prize Band.

He was due home on leave in the Spring of 1918 to marry his fiance. Unfortunately, his leave was cancelled due to the massive German Spring Offensive of March and April. He was wounded by artillery fire on the 26th April and was moved to a Casualty Clearing Station where he died the following day aged 25. He is buried in Haringhe (Bandaghem ) Military Cemetery, Poperinge, Belgium.

The letter, (which rests on top of the box), is not real. It is something I thought Herbert might have written to his fiance whilst in hospital. Tonally, however, it is based on actual letters from a friend of mine’s grandfather who fought on the Somme.

The ‘Princess Mary’ tin, which was given to all soldiers I imagined would contain mementos of his fiance, such as a lock of her hair.

For me, Herbert’s dream for the future was to come back to the two things he loved most – his fiance, and music.

The sheet music, which lines the interior of the box, is by J.S. Bach and the lyrics are in German. Whilst I doubt that Herbert would have spoken German, they would share the common language of music.

This tribute is to honour the life of Herbert Jackson and all the other men, women and children from every nation, who died in the First World War, and to what futures there might have been.

The We Are Dreamers 2018 exhibition opens on the 11th November, 2018 at the Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery.

Private Herbert Jackson’s biography details were provided courtesy of http://www.stockport1914-1918.co.uk/

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Remember me, 1916.


I once went to visit the The Somme. It wasn’t really my intention. I got a cheap flight from Dublin to Beauvais and rather than go into Paris, (a city I’d been to on several occasions), I decided to head north.

I found myself in places like Albert, Amiens and Arras. Pretty much the front line back in 1916.

There’s a monument in Arras upon which are engraved 70,000 names of men and women who were killed. They weren’t the only ones killed there. (The total figure is around 158,000.) They were just the ones whose bodies could not be found. They had been vapourised by shelling.

Vapourised.

Monument at Arras

Near Amiens I saw a bomb crater. Nothing unusual in that. The fact is, this crater was about 100 feet in diameter. And about 30-40 feet deep. It was on the German front line.

In Albert, I was walking down a country lane and, when I turned a corner, I was confronted by a Commonwealth cemetery. I have never seen so many white marble headstones in my life. Row upon row stretching into the distance. Many engraved with the epitaph: Here lies an unknown soldier.

Commonwealth cemetery.

It was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had.

My thoughts go out to all the people of all nations who have died in conflicts around the globe. And obviously, to their surviving ancestors. Though, I am finding it a little difficult to extend that sentiment to the Taliban at the moment.

 

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