Pupils from Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall, in Lancashire, have been given the proud task of designing a memorial at a new World War One war cemetery, in Fromelles, Northern France, created for the soldiers killed in a long forgotten battle.
The school has been chosen to represent Great Britain in submitting artwork for the displays, along with schools from Australia and France.
The new cemetery has been in the headlines nationally this week. It is being created for individual graves of up to 400 British and Australian soldiers, who were killed in the 1916 Battle of Fromelles and buried by the Germans in mass graves.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) contacted Paul Garlington, Head of History at St Mary’s Hall, the prep department at Stonyhurst, when they needed a memorial designing which will eventually be on permanent display in a new visitors’ centre at the cemetery.
This new war cemetery is being built after several years of painstaking research and investigation. Six mass graves - or burial pits - dating from the First World War have been identified at Pheasant Wood, near Fromelles in northern France. The pits, which have lain undisturbed since July 1916, are believed to contain the remains of between 250 and 400 British and Australian soldiers, buried behind German lines after the battle.
The British and Australian governments have asked the CWGC to oversee the operation to recover the remains and to create a new military cemetery at Fromelles for the soldiers’ reburial. The CWGC are also
using DNA investigation techniques hopefully to track down families of the soldiers buried on the site.
“The panels will be fitted around the hoardings of the construction site of the new war cemetery and then moved to the permanent exhibition in the visitors centre when the work is finally completed,” said Paul Garlington. “The pupils are designing one large piece of artwork that will be viewed as a montage over 10 separate panels.”
Jacqueline Hines, Head of Art at St Mary’s Hall, has been overseeing the design process undertaken by the pupils in Year 7. She said: “The brief from the CWGC focuses on ‘remembrance’ and the pupils have been reflecting on a tragic event and creating images that are dignified and respectful – a fitting memorial to the men whose lives were lost.”