Conceived and created by artist Rob Heard in collaboration with SSAFA Devon, ‘Lost Lives’ is a unique exhibition to commemorate the Fallen on each day of the First World War and to show the true cost of the conflict.  Rob is well known for his 19240 and Trench exhibitions commemorating the Battle of the Somme and will be laying out 72,396 shrouds at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London from  8-18th November 2018 for the Centenary of the Armistice.

Lost Lives in Exeter

The Lost Lives exhibition is a simple but challenging installation that generates powerful emotions and gives a graphic sense of the large numbers killed. One shrouded figure, hand stitched by Rob, is laid out to represent each of the 1,561 days of the First World War and records on a small plaque the number lost on each day. The daily record of lost lives highlights the scale of the conflict that saw 983,779  killed from the British Empire. The worst day of the War was on 1 July 1916 when 19,240 were killed at the Battle of the Somme.

Lost Lives is currently on display at the CWGC Thiepval Memorial in France until 9 November 2018 when it will be brought back to London as part of the installation at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Watch BBC Breakfast when John Maguire went with Shrouds artist Rob Heard to visit the exhibit at Thiepval:

The losses for each year are:                        The casualties by nation are:
1914             36,780                                         Australia                62,149
1915           150,881                                         Canada                 64,996
1916           235,457                                         India                      73,905
1917           292,860                                         New Zealand        18,166
1918           263,227                                         Newfoundland        1,570
.                                                                         South Africa            9,726
.                                                                         UK                       744,000
Total   953,104

Casualty statistics for World War I vary to a great extent.  Military casualties reported in official sources list deaths due to all causes, including killed or died of wounds, accidents, and disease.

The exhibition has great educational value as laying out 1561 plaques and figures for each day of the war and highlighting the campaigns shows the scale of the war and enables people to connect with individual dates, particular battles or be mesmerised by the enormity of the daily and monthly losses over 52 months of war. It also facilitates discussion about military history, ethics and the impact of the war.

Some of the major battles highlighted:

23 Aug 1914                  Battle of Mons
26 Aug  1914                 Battle of Le Cateau
22 Sep 1914                  Loss of 3 RN ships
19-22 Oct 1914             1st Battle of Ypres
1 Nov 1914                    Battle of Coronel
17 Feb 15 –9 Jan 1916 Gallipoli Campaign
22-25 Apr 1915              2nd Battle of Ypres
25 Sep – 8 Oct 1915      Battle of Loos
31 May -1 Jun 1916       Battle of Jutland
1 July – 18 Nov 1916     Battle of the Somme
9 Apr -16 May 1917       Battle of Arras
7-14 June 1917             Battle of Messines
31 Jul -10 Nov 1917      3rd Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele)
20 Nov -6 Dec 1917      Battle of Cambrai
21 Mar -5 Apr 1918       German Spring Offensive
9-29 Apr 1918               Operation Georgette
8 Aug – 11 Nov 1918     Hundred Day Offensive

Displayed in Exeter from 30 Jun – 8 July 2018, the exhibition drew over 15,000 people and generated some powerful comments from the public:

A fitting tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice
A very poignant and thought provoking exhibit
Very emotional but very educational for young and old
A very humbling and powerful exhibition
A fantastic way to display the sheer volume of the many thousands lost


SSAFA was there throughout the First World War and continues to support serving personnel, veterans and their dependents today by offering practical, emotional and financial support through a network of trained volunteers and professional staff