A SCULPTURE built from clay taken and representing soldiers from each side of one of the most notorious battles of the First World War has been unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA).
Professor Stephen Dixon, from Manchester School of Art at Manchester Metropolitan University, has crafted an ‘everyman’ composite sculpture inspired by photographs of soldiers from the six nations involved in the Battle of Passchendaele.
The metre-high portrait is the central feature of the Arboretum’s new Passchendaele: Mud and Memory exhibition, which uses clay from both the Wienerberger Quarry and Brickworks, located on the battlefield site, and the NMA’s home county of Staffordshire.
Two of the subjects depicted in the piece are Lieutenant Colonel Harry Moorhouse and his son Captain Ronald Moorhouse who were both posted to the 4th Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in the 49th Division. Harry was wounded on two occasions, but he always insisted on returning to his unit, until eventually he was in command with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
On 9 October 1917, the battalion was called up from divisional reserve to support the assault troops who had come under heavy fire. Ronald led his company in assault of the first objective, when he was wounded at the head of his men.
On hearing of his son’s injuries, Harry left battalion headquarters to come to his aid, but was shot dead by a sniper when he sought medical assistance. Ronald was unable to survive his injuries and died on the battlefield, and when the attack broke down forcing the battalion to retreat to its starting position, both bodies were abandoned, never to be recovered.
Lieutenant Colonel Harry Moorhouse and Captain Ronald Moorhouse are now both commemorated by name on the Tyne Cot Memorial.
The exhibition, in the Arboretum’s Landscapes of Life Temporary Gallery, will be on display until autumn.
Other elements focus on the evocative power of historical artefacts from the conflict, many of which Professor Dixon has collected himself. The inspiration for the exhibition came from handling these objects and experiencing a material and emotional connection with the daily lives of individual soldiers from the First World War.
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