Remembering every man who fell on the first day

Soldiers from the Northumberland Fusiliers are to be remembered as part of the 19240 Shrouds of the Somme art project. Picture by Matt Austin
Soldiers from the Northumberland Fusiliers are to be remembered as part of the 19240 Shrouds of the Somme art project. Picture by Matt Austin
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More than 1,000 soldiers from the Northumberland Fusiliers are to be remembered in a historic centenary art project to commemorate the fallen of the Battle of the Somme.

The 19240 Shrouds of the Somme aims to commemorate all 19,240 allied soldiers who fell on the first day of the battle on July 1, 1916.

Exactly 100 years to the day later, at the same time as the whistle was blown to ‘go over the top’, 19,240 hand-stitched shrouded figures representing every soldier will be revealed laid out in Exeter’s Northernhay Gardens.

The names of the fallen have been marked by the artist Rob Heard who has seven volumes of the War Graves Commission’s lists of those who died. As each shroud is completed, he reads the soldier’s name out loud and symbolically crosses them off the list.

The Northumberland Fusiliers lost 1,644 men on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

The team behind the project are now appealing for volunteers to help on the day.

Group Captain Robin Chambers, representing the Armed Forces charity SSAFA who will benefit from the project, said: “SSAFA was there in 1916 to support the families of those who fell at the Somme and, since 1885 has supported all service personnel and their families. The 19240 Shrouds of the Somme Exhibition is another way in which we can show that we are here to help.

“The exhibition captures the brutality and emotional impact of service life and, as an all-volunteer charity, we are honoured to be asked to supervise the exhibition and assist the public.

“As the exhibition will be very popular, we are recruiting volunteers for July 1 to 7 to assist us in interacting with the public, reading the names of the fallen and selling the shrouds.”

Anyone who would like to volunteer to help can apply online at www.thesom me19240.co.uk
The team behind the project also see this as an opportunity to create a lasting legacy commemorating those who fell and are asking for the public to upload photos, stories, memories and any further information on individuals to build up a picture of them to commemorate them.