Hundreds of visitors joined SSAFA for their popular World War I Living History weekend and special Choral Evensong commemorating the Centenary of the end of World War I last weekend (9-10 June).
The WWI Trench, manned by re-enactors from C-Company Rolling History, with its reconstructed fire step, tunnel and field hospital, proved a big draw, along with the replica Bristol Scout aircraft and the Larkhill Living History group’s World War I encampment. There were also lots of willing candidates, old and young, eager to try their hand at Morse code in the Royal Corps of Signals Museum tent.
The Wiltshire Army Cadet Force and their Corps of Drums and Bugles brought a lump to the throat as they paraded through the city and into the Close, joined by the Sea Cadet Corps and the Royal Marine Cadet Corps. Many of the youngsters were almost the same age as those who had been sent to the trenches.
Equally moving was artist Rob Heard’s Shrouds Project, receiving its first showing in 2018 (there will be further exhibitions in Exeter and Belfast) in the Cathedral cloisters. The 1,561 shrouds, one for each day of the Great War, were laid in a column across the sacred Garth or burial ground. Eventually 72,396 shrouded figures (all hand-sewn by the artist) will be laid out at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and displayed from 8-18 November as part of a national commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of the ‘war to end all wars’.
Visiting the Cathedral on Sunday, Shrouds artist Rob Heard said:
“I have lived with these shrouds for five years, working them by hand, and been in the company of these men working long into the night in my workshop. Seeing them laid out in public on Sunday and observing the impact their presence had on visitors was humbling. The shrouds are not graphic but they do, in their quiet way, bring home the horror of WWI, both in its scale and the tragic waste of young lives.”
For further details of Shrouds of the Somme events follow this link.
Lt Colonel William Common, secretary of SSAFA Wiltshire, who was in the Cathedral Close over the weekend, said:
“It was fantastic to see the turnout and all the age groups mixing, from the members of the British Legion to our young cadets and local families. There are over 10,000 servicemen and women, veterans and families in Wiltshire alone, so raising awareness of SSAFA and what it offers in the way of support is vital, and of course sharing the history of our Armed Forces.”
A special Evensong commemorating the centenary was held in the Cathedral on Sunday, 10 June, bringing the busy weekend to a close. Wiltshire’s Lord Lieutenant, Sarah Troughton, attended and the homily was delivered by The Venerable Stephen Robbins, President of SSAFA and former Chaplain General Army. Music was provided by the Shrewton Silver Band and the standards of the British Legion were paraded. Ahead of the final hymn, Abide with Me, the last post was sounded.
For further information contact Marie Thomas on email@example.com or 01722 555148