Blog by artist/printmaker Dawn Cole
In August I visited a few of the War Memorials in France. Many were the official sites of Remembrance such as Vimy Ridge (more on this in another post) and Thiepval, however one was not a formalised site and the experience of visiting this place has stuck with me.
The Lochnagar Crater is the largest crater ever made by man in anger and is privately owned. It was purchased by Richard Dunning in 1978 and has since become a place dedicated to peace, fellowship and reconciliation between the nations who fought on all sides on the Western Front. There is more info on the official website here
When I began transcribing Clarice’s diary, way back in 2007, I knew immediately I needed to make work in response to it. Visiting the crater had the same effect.
Walking around the perimeter of the crater takes a while and I became aware of discarded poppies, the kind produced by the Royal British Legion for Armistice Day, strewn all around, the remnants of Remembrance. Some trodden into the soil, others hidden in the long grass and underneath the wooden walkway. They reminded me of the scattered bodies that still lie buried under the crater and in the surrounding landscape. No order, no recognition, no names. Except one, a solitary monument to George Nugent, a soldier whose body emerged from the earth and was discovered by a visitor.
This lack of order and anonymity was a stark contrast to the other sites I visited, with their commissioned structures, carefully carved names and organised layout. I had an overwhelming urge to gather the poppies, map and record their whereabouts and take them home. I didn’t, they were not mine to collect, except there was one, it was trodden into the dry, pale earth, faded and damaged and I couldn’t leave it behind. I carefully brushed the soil away, wrapped it in a tissue and put it in my bag.
On returning home, and unable to forget my visit to the crater, I wrote to Richard Dunning and am delighted to say he has agreed to me doing a project at the crater. I am not completely sure yet what the project will be and who it will involve but I just felt I needed to record the starting point.
And the poppy I brought home? Became this….