We're Here Because We're Here: Ghost Soldiers mark the Battle of the Somme

2 July 2016

Yesterday marked the one hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme, one of the most terrible battles of the First World War.  As the day dawned, towns and cities across the UK were witness to the return of a host of ‘ghost tommies’ as 1500 men suddenly appeared in full replica World War One uniform.

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Each man carried a card bearing the name of a soldier who died on the first day of the battle, together with information about his age and background.   The volunteers were told to remain silent and simply give the card, bearing the information and #wearehere to those who passed by.  Unsurprisingly, British social media was soon abuzz with pictures of the event.


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The 1,500 – a huge amount of people to participate in a single art event of this kind – represent a drop in the ocean of the real casualties of the battle.  The UK alone suffered over 60,000 casualties on the first day of the battle.  After five months, the toll rose to over one million from both sides.

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We're Here Because We're Here
The project is called We're Here Because We're Here (after a contemporary song favored by British soldiers) and was commissioned by 14-18 NOW; this is the UK's arts programme for the World War One centenary.  As the organisers wished this to be a surprise event it was given a code name – Project Octagon.

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We're Here Because We're Here
We're Here Because We're Here was kept secret to make it a total surprise and as people wearily made their way to work or to the shops or just to window shop in their home town, they came across the soldiers.  What was just another ordinary British summer’s day, replete with light rainfall and a grey sky, was made remarkable by this timely reminder of those who died so we might enjoy and lead our lives today.

We're Here Because We're Here
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Headed by National Theatre boss, Rufus Norris and the artist Jermey Dealer, this particular Somme commemoration project is perhaps the most unexpected.  Although many in the UK gather in churches, around war memorials or in work places to remember the fallen this is perhaps the first time that the fallen have come to visit us in our streets.

We're Here Because We're Here

So impressed with #wearehere...we'll done...


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