Thousands of “ghost soldiers” will appear seated in the pews of churches and cathedrals across the UK this summer in a World War I memorial artwork that aims to raise £15 million ($20 million) to help today’s veterans. The perspex or aluminium silhouettes of single uniformed figures are called “Tommies” after the slang for ordinary British soldiers.
Standing versions of the soldiers’ silhouettes made of aluminum have begun to appear to kick-start the project and its fundraising campaign. Venues include St Pancras Station in London. In less than a week the sale of sculptures totaled more than £1.3 million ($1.8 million) as individuals and community groups rushed to place their orders.
The project, which began in a village church in South East England, is the idea of the artist and photographer Martin Barraud. To mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, in 2016, he placed 51 perspex Tommies in the pews of his local Anglican church in Penshurst, Kent. They represented each of the men of the village who died in the conflict and whose names are engraved on local memorials.