Ghostly figures of First World War soldiers or ‘Tommies’, have taken up their position on the Heart of Midlothian pitch today, as part of a new nationwide fundraising campaign to commemorate 100 years since the end of the Great War later this year.
Hoping to raise in excess of £15 million for armed forces and mental health charities, the six foot high Tommies form part of a nationwide art installation called ‘There But Not There’.
Heart of Midlothian Football Club has a profound history and association with the First World War. Thirty club professionals were involved in the war, which took the lives of seven players and thirteen sustained injuries that meant they would never play football again.
James Lowe was just one of the inspirational Hearts players enlisted to fight in World War One’s McCrae’s Battalion. He was twice wounded, later discharged and went on to become an FA Cup winner. In honour of players like Lowe, Hearts installed a memorial garden two years ago, erected a remembrance statue and dedicated part of its museum to the war history and lives lost a century ago.
The Tommies at Hearts will be touring the UK until Armistice Day and members of the public are being encouraged to buy their own 10 inch versions, which are made by military veterans, to remember their own relatives. The money raised from the sale of these commemorative figures will be distributed evenly between The Royal Foundation: Heads Together, Walking With The Wounded, Combat Stress, Help for Heroes: Hidden Wounds, The Commonwealth War Graves Foundation and Project Equinox: Housing Veterans.
Alongside the touring Tommies, local community groups, such as schools, businesses, places of worship and village halls will be given the opportunity to host their own ‘silhouette installations’.
The silhouettes, different in shape to the standing Tommy, are designed to fit into seated spaces and were inspired by an art installation by Martin Barraud at Penshurst Church in Kent in 2016. The installation at Penshurst Church included 51 silhouettes, one for each name on the local Penshurst war memorial.
It is hoped that communities will honour the fallen on their own local war memorials, by placing a silhouette for every man that fell in local community spaces.
Rowley Gregg MC, Director of Operations for There But Not There and a former Captain in The Light Dragoons said: “Today marks the launch of the There But Not There campaign, a poignant moment that allows us to reflect on the huge contribution that Heart of Midlothian Football Club and its inspirational players made to the First World War. This commemoration allows us to not only remember those that lost their lives, but also to raise vital funds for armed forces and mental health charities across the UK. Members of the public can show their support by buying the Tommies, and ensuring that the memory of those lost lives on within the communities left desolate by their passing.”
Tom Purdie, Club and War Historian, added: “They volunteered in 1914, a full two years before conscription was introduced. The team were well ahead in the Championship at the time, but the whole club felt that their duty lay in fighting for their country. It was a remarkable sacrifice, and one that has inspired supporters and shareholders for generations.”
Elsewhere in the UK, Tommy installations have appeared in sentry boxes usually manned by Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London, on Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland and Big Pit National Coal Museum in Wales.
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