15 Feb 2016 Plymouth Herald
By Martin Freeman

Children are being invited to bring alive the story of the bloodiest episode in British military history.

The challenge is to consider how their community was affected by the Battle of the Somme.

Every primary and second school in Devon is being asked to join in, part of a unique project marking the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War battle on July 1.

Artist Rob Heard with some of the 19,240 figurines for the Shrouds of the Somme project. Pictures by Steve Haywood

19,240 British soldiers, including at least 700 from the South West, were killed in the first four hours of the encounter.

All the school contributions will be shown at Exeter Library and Exeter Cathedral in the week of July 1, as part of the 19240 Shrouds of the Somme art project.

The centrepiece of that commemoration will be the laying out of 19,240 shrouded figures in Northernhay Gardens in the city.

Chris Lorimer, of the Shrouds project committee, said he hoped schools would engage with their communities and unearth links with the battle or the Great War.

“We are hoping they will find information, stories and photos from families whose relatives were directly affected,” he said.

Schools are particularly being asked to put together a short video or self-running presentation specific to their community and the Somme.

The twin goals are for children to learn about the war and leave a legacy for future generations.

“It will be a fascinating project that could really help to illuminate history and leave a lasting legacy for future generations to understand what impact it had on the history of the world they live in, not just on a national and international level but on a local and community level too,” said Mr Lorimer.

“The first day of the Battle of the Somme was one of the most dreadful in British history and a significant number of those who fell were from the Devonshire regiment. We hope that the Devon schools’ projects will help to commemorate those lives.”

Rob Heard, an artist from Somerset, and Exeter folk singer Steve Knightley conceived the project. Mr Heard is making each of the shrouds for the 12-inch figures.

The installation will be revealed at 7:30am on July 1, 100 years to the minute after the first whistle was blown to tell the men to go ‘over the top’.

The project is also raising money for the the Exeter Foundation, a charity linking the city rugby club and business to help good causes, and military charities.

Schools who enter will also be able to view the 19240 Shrouds of the Somme Project on Tuesday July 5 and raise money for the charities, getting an individual shrouded figure in return.

Those in years 9 and above will be able to watch a documentary of the battle at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum.

Find out more at 19240 For Schools