“ From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered,-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”
Henry V Shakespeare
We have been to several remembrance services in our home town and visited the installation at The Tower of London- “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. This amazing and poignant work of art was created by ceramic artist Paul Cummings, with stage settings by stage designer Tom Piper. The installation was far from complete at the time of our visit and yet the effect was breathtaking. By the time of completion 888,246 poppies will have filled the entire moat, each poppy a life lost including one for my great uncle John.
On this day, a hundred years ago, my grandfather Thomas and his brother John were already enlisted as regular soldiers. As a mother of two boys I can only imagine my great grandmother’s feelings on hearing of the outbreak of WW1. John was killed at the very beginning, Thomas, a Royal Engineer, survived the entire conflict from start to finish.
Many of those who returned home safely went on to develop what is now understood to be post traumatic stress disorder, a condition little understood in those days. One of the charities to benefit from the Tower of London poppy appeal is Combat Stress who help today's veterans affected by stress. Coping with life after conflict can be extremely challenging, not only for the ex-service men and women but for their families too. Victims often suffer horrendous flashbacks, depression and character changes; fortunately charities like Combat Stress can offer help and support but need our help. You can find out more here-
|Double page spread from "Can it be true?" by Susan Hill|
Illustration by Valerie Greeley.
With so many references to WW1 and with thoughts about my grandfather and his brother, I found that WW1 imagery crept into my work. This illustration from “Can it be true?” could have had any number of interpretations; I saw it as a nightmare from the trenches. For me the two men represent the brothers Thomas and John. With so many disparate images to include- whales, soldiers, shrews, ferrets, stoats and a General dreaming, I choose to make the bed covers part of an undulating landscape with dreamlike waves and harpoons turning into arrows and bayonets. It was certainly the most challenging thing I have ever had to illustrate and kept me awake on more than one occasion.