Armistice Day 100th Anniversary. 1918 – 2018.
To mark this day nationwide 14-18 NOW (WW1 Centenary Art Commission) joined up with the Film Director Danny Boyle to commemorate 100 years since the guns went silent in Europe.Danny Boyle came up with the idea of etching large-scale portraits of fallen heroes, along with numerous ‘unknown soldier’ etchings, on beaches.(see https://www.pagesofthesea.org.uk/about/ ).
We have always remembered this day; the Cenotaph remembrance service and the dignitaries laying wreathes, the village War Memorial Service with the Veterans, Scouts, Girl Guides and Sea Scouts marching to the memorial… and my wife’s birthday!
32 beaches around the UK were selected to remember the millions whose lives were lost during the conflict.In Pembrokeshire we were lucky in that Freshwater West beach was selected as one of the beaches and, as no one in Pembrokeshire is far from the sea, we and many more, naturally went.
It was an event to remember. It was cool and windy but the rain we had had over the previous days was spent out.The drive from Angle is a bit dramatic with the road going through those sand dune canyons and the splendid view of the beach before you drop down to the dunes.
We could see from a distance where to go with the gathering on the sand at the Castlemartin end. I was a bit concerned as there is limited parking there normally, but fortunately we didn’t have to look for parking and walk any distance to the beach.
Organisation was superb with plenty of parking attendants and various ‘staff’ dishing out leaflets and offering advice. There was even a National Trust Pop up canteen supplying bacon butties, carrot soup, coffee and tea with biscuits!My presumption is that the local area National Trust was responsible for the volunteer staff and the good job they did.
Down on the beach young and old were encouraged to scrape the ‘Tommy’ silhouettes in the sand using small rakes. The team of volunteers moving the stencils up the rows were kept busy!It was quite impressive to see the 4 rows, many yards long, of the silhouettes. I don’t know whether the number of etchings related to the fallen Pembrokeshire unknown soldiers or whether time and space dictated that etching stopped.
Major Charles Alan Smith Morris was the WW1 casualty chosen to be drawn in the sand at our beach. The portrait of the Major was impressively large and designed by sand artist “Sand in Your Eye.”The chosen area was pegged out and a network of string lines created points of reference on the sand. I presume these reference points related to the Major’s portrait on graph paper. I was queueing for our bacon butties whilst most of the Major was etched but the guys that did it must have been ‘suitably trained’.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough height to view the Major properly when he was finished. Hopefully I’ll come across the aerial photos taken by the drone whose pilot braved flying the expensive thing in the strong wind.High tide was at 8pm on the day so we couldn’t witness the waves taking back the etchings to the sea which would, no doubt, have been very moving.
All in all, a day that I’ll remember for the rest of my life and my photos of the day and the copies of the poem written by Carol Ann Duffy which we read on the beach will be saved for our great-grandchildren to see on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month 2118.
All images from Louis Okwedy.