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Shrouds of the Somme

1046. Rob Heard

Rob Heard, from Somerset, has single-handedly created an art installation ‘Shrouds of the Somme’ out of 72,396 individual shrouded figures to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War and demonstrate the sacrifice of British servicemen killed at the Somme.

Rob Heard

Rob began creating the figures to deal with the depression and injuries received in a severe car accident, and contextualise his injuries with those of British service personnel in past and present conflicts. With donations from a crowdfunded campaign and support from the ‘Commonwealth War Graves Commission’, Rob has created all 72,396 figures to match the names of the fallen in their digital archive. Each figure is 30cm long, hand-stitched in a shroud, and stacked together to form a trench-like structure covering 4,000 square metres. Rob’s previous installations have been displayed in Salisbury, Belfast, Exeter and Bristol, with the final installation taking place at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park this November expecting to be seen by over 150,000 visitors. Donations to the project and profits from the sale of the figures are supporting the ‘SSAFA Armed Forces Charity’ and the ‘Commonwealth War Graves Foundation.’

In a personal letter to Rob, Prime Minister Theresa May said:

“Your painstaking work crafting 72,396 figures for the ‘Shrouds of the Somme’ installation has resulted in a truly moving piece of art that is a poignant tribute to the terrible sacrifices of the First World War. In the centenary year of the Armistice, your work with the ‘Commonwealth War Graves Commission’ and ‘SSAFA’ is ensuring remembrance of the conflict and providing invaluable support to those who have served our country.”

Liz Woodfield, Director of Information and Communications at the ‘Commonwealth War Graves Commission’, said:

“The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is delighted that Rob has been recognised for his incredible Shrouds of the Somme project. It has been a pleasure to work so closely with Rob and his team, and to see the names listed on the Commission’s Thiepval Memorial reconnected with the people who fought and died in the Somme Region during the First World War.”

Rob said:

“I am delighted to receive the Prime Minister’s Points of Light award. I have had so much help from so many to get to this point and see the Shrouds laid out in London, it is just incredible. Those men who gave their lives so long ago deserve to be remembered.”

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