STAFFORDSHIRE’S National Memorial Arboretum needs your help to create a unique tribute to the British personnel who lost their lives on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

A total of 19,240 wooden soldiers, approximately 12 inches tall, are being personalised with images, messages, poetry and paint so they can become part of Somme 100 En Masse – a giant art installation at the Arboretum.

Arboretum artists in residence Julie Edwards and Ron Thompson, of Planet Art, are appealing for schools and families in the UK and France to take part. Around 750 soldiers have been painted so far and the first one was put in place by 14-year-old Lewis Holmes, whose great grandfather George Edwards fought in the Battle of the Somme.

17-year-old George lied about his age in order to join up and tales of his heroism in battle have been passed down through his family. George was eventually invalided out after frostbite claimed his toes. He passed away in 1998, shortly before his 101st birthday.

Personal tribute

The soldiers will be decorated using a stencil on the front and the reverse can be personalised by visitors wishing to leave their own tribute.

The Arboretum and Planet Art are also providing special kits for groups and schools so those unable to physically participate on site can still contribute. All the soldiers will be put in place over the next few months as part of the Arboretum’s five-month programme of events and activities to commemorate the battle.

Sarah Montgomery, managing director of the Arboretum, said: “We are proud to host this unique and striking tribute. The project will enable people to get involved and to remember particular individuals if they wish.”

If you would like to get involved, go to www.thenma.org.uk/somme100

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