A unique work of art will be installed at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from 8-18 November, to mark the centenary of the First World War.

Shrouds of the Somme is a project by artist Rob Heard, which saw him hand stitch and bind shrouds for 72,396 figures, representing the Commonwealth servicemen killed during the Battle of the Somme who have no known grave.

The figures are laid out shoulder to shoulder in the park, filling an area of over 4,000sqm. Entry to the public is free, and over 200,000 visitors are expected over 11 days.

Heard commented on the installation: “It’s so important that the number that died is physicalised, in any way it can be. To understand that these weren’t just numbers – they were men. And they still are.

“The reality is that literally thousands upon thousands of men perished together, en mass. The 72,396 represent only those with no known grave – a fraction of those who died in the whole battle. Walking through a 45 metre trench of bodies is like nothing else.”

It took Heard 18 months to stitch all 72,000 figures, spending around 12-14 hours on the project every day.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan commented: “As we reach the centenary of the end of the First World War, it’s vital that we remember the service and sacrifices made by our Armed Forces.

“I’m proud that we are able to host this artwork in Queen Elizabeth Park, and hope that many Londoners and those from further afield will be able to visit this extraordinary memorial to reflect on the horrors of war.”

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