Neyland military artist to honour war dead at Somme
12:01pm Thursday 12th September 2013 in News
A NEYLAND military artist will travel to the Somme as part of an Armistice project that will aim to unite the community through art.
Barry John, who recently established the VC Gallery in Haverfordwest, will travel to the Somme region of Albert, in France, with MP Stephen Crabb, his wife Beatrice, and Pembrokeshire Military Academy instructor Andrew Desborough, as part of a pilgrimage to remember the fallen soldiers of the two World Wars.
The trip will form part of the Neyland Armistice Project which will culminate in the creation of an Armistice statue to commemorate the 52 Neyland servicemen who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars.
Barry, who has served 24 years in the Army, said that he wanted to unite the community though the exhibition.
He said that Pembrokeshire College Military Academy students have been working alongside the Royal Engineers to help create the statue, comprising 52 copper poles to symbolise the servicemen who perished in the two wars.
The copper poles will then be placed in a wooden trench structure, which will be filled with Neyland soil mixed with soil from the Somme.
Barry said that as part of the project, the VC Gallery will also provide workshops for people of all ages in October and November at St Clement’s Community Hall, in Neyland.
He said: "The aim of the workshops is so that members of the community can create a mural made out of individual medals and poppies. The medals can name someone in the family or someone they respect, and can be made out of anything.
"The aim is to create something of permanent standing in the community through fun and participation, to put across the forgotten voices of the soldiers who died in battle, and share their intrinsic stories."
On the way to the Somme, Barry will also conduct an artistic journey and produce a body of work to correspond with the Armistice project and the life and death of Haverfordwest artist Gwen John, who died in Dieppe on September 18, 1939.
Barry added: "It's also a personal journey for me, because it'll be a bit of a pilgrimage. Being in the forces, I have lost many friends, and my grandad was a medic on the Somme, so he came back with his own demons.
"Highlighting the loss of people in this small community, is like a dot on the landscape, and the bigger picture is the huge loss of life across the UK.
"It's a symbolic act to show that we haven't forgotten the men that died in that soil for the freedoms we have today. And a part of those lost lives will be brought back to where they lived."
The VC (Veterans in the Community) Gallery will open in Dark Street in December.