WO2 Elliot Drake Rifles at Shrouds of the Somme, Exeter 1 July 2016

photo:Richard Austin

Just under a year ago I was stood in the middle of one of the oldest gardens in the UK surrounded by 19,240 fellow soldiers, all who sadly fell on one day during one of the most horrific battles in British history.

Along with thousands of others, we were there to pay our utmost respect to the men and boys who never came home.

I stood to attention, my salute perfectly still, surrounded by these brave souls brought home for the first time in 100 years. My emotions were running high and to try and stop the tears from falling, I allowed my eyes to wander across the crowd. What I saw blew me away.

Men, women and children were stood before me, sad faces, tearful faces, heads hung low, looking at the bodies surrounding me and trying to understand this tragic loss of life.

Today I look back on that day with a heavy heart. I still look at the names of those that fell, I look at the villages and towns these men came from and try to understand how these communities survived when many of the men and boys were taken so early.

Rob allowed me to be part of his project for which I am truly grateful. As a serviceman, this has allowed me to bring closure to some of my own demons. It has allowed me to reflect on friends who have been injured and friends I have lost.

What the team are planning to deliver in Nov 2018 is by no means easy. Rob’s hands will be sore, the teams backs will be broken, knees will be grazed and they will be tired. However bringing home all 70,000 men will provide closure to many; it will visually show how conflict changes lives, families, villages, towns and humanity itself.

Kind Regards

Elliot Drake
Swift & Bold