At the beginning of the month, the sight of volunteers in WW1 uniforms at locations around the country, as part of the the Battle of the Somme commemorations, provided a thought-provoking and moving image. As always with these occasions, a tremendous amount of organisation was required to support the event, and University of Cumbria staff member, Ian Rodham, played a crucial part in scenes that took place in north Wales.
As well as being the university’s travel planner, Kendal-based Ian is also a qualified International Mountain Leader (IML) and he was the guide who managed the safety of the group of soldiers who climbed Snowdon.
The UK-wide event -we’re here because we’re here - was conceived and created by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller in collaboration with Rufus Norris, director of the National Theatre.
‘From Swansea to Mount Snowdon, Shetland to Penzance, men aged 16-49 covered the width and breadth of the UK from 7am to 7pm, appearing as if from nowhere on beaches, streets, dual carriageways and in fields. Dressed in First World War uniforms, the men represented 15 of the regiments that suffered losses in the first day of the Battle.’
Thousands of volunteers took part, creating a modern memorial to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, where 19,240 men were killed on the first day of the battle in 1916.
Each participant in uniform represented a soldier who was killed, taking inspiration from tales of sightings during and after the First World War by people who believed they had seen a dead loved one.
Ian comments: "A friend of mine is managing director of National Theatre Wales and, knowing my credentials, she asked me to get involved. There was a lot of planning in advance but we had to keep the whole thing secret so as to maximise impact on the day.
“I managed the overall party and we worked as one large group, although the leaders kept some distance from (but in sight of) the soldier volunteers so that our presence in our modern outdoor kit didn’t detract from the impact.
“The group that I was managing included nine volunteers in uniform, photographer Mark Douet, creative director Gerald Tyler, an army instructor and three assistants. It was a privilege to be able to work with everyone and moving to see the reactions of people on the mountain who met the soldiers."
Image caption: Ian (left); the soldiers on Snowden