Saturday, 7 November 2015

Wool War One: a knitted army appears in London

There was a moving tribute to the troops who lost their lives in the First World War at the 2015 World Travel Market:  a column of several hundred tiny knitted soldiers, trudging through the French stand at the Excel centre, complete with belts, haversacks, hats and boots. Wool War One is a remembrance project by French artist Délit Maille, helped by 500 volunteer knitters from around the world. The figures were previously displayed at Roubaix in northern France, as part of the Farewell to Arms season, and at the Grand Palais in Paris.
One figure stood by itself, under a plaque with the poignant words of Rudyard Kipling:
                                              "If any question why we died
                                               Tell them, because our fathers lied."
                                                             - The Common Form, 1918

The choice of wool was deliberate, as it was widely used in uniforms and equipment and still plays an important part in the agricultural economy of countries that fought in the conflict, such as Australia, the UK, NZ and South Africa.
There are 800 figures in the installation, each 15cm high, but space restrictions meant this had to be reduced to 540 for the London travel trade exhibition.
2016 sees the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. Official commemorations begin in northern France on July 1, and a new interpretation centre opens in June in Thiepval. Fingers crossed the woollen army will be on display again.

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