Tag Archives: First World War

Sawdust Hearts

Sawdust Heart

Sawdust Heart

The Dorsetshire Regiment, commemorated in this vintage heart, on loan to the exhibition.

Dorset Regt

So moving, the unsold hearts representing the unaccounted for casualties of war.

missing in action

sawdust heart, WW1, art project

Sawdust Heart, art project

So much creativity – so much emotion – so beautifully created – so beautifully curated.

I am glad to have been part of this amazing project. sawdusthrt

And still I find it hard to write about.

I only knew about the project through Cathy’s blog. Cathy has written a brilliant post about the exhibition – you can read it by clicking on this link.cathy

You can also go to the Sawdust Hearts Website to find out more

and can see a video about the exhibition here with Helen Birmingham talking you through a virtual tour of the Hearts.

Thank you to Cathy for the picture of Helen below, signing my book for me.Helen Birmingham

This is the heart Helen decorated

Sawdust Heart

Which was part of a previous exhibiton of 100 hearts, the inspiration for the 1,568 Hearts.

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I was intrigued by number 1000, I’d love to know the thinking behind this one

Sawdust Heart

Sawdust Heart

But the one with barbed wire at the top of the post is my favourite for the way it simply sums up so much.

The Exhibition ended on 30th November.

We have had an email from Helen to say that the hearts have been packed away and she is taking a much needed break until the New Year. Helen hints at the possibility of another event that will include the hearts. I do hope that happens as even though there were over 4,000 visitors in Scarborough, the project deserves a wider audience.

 

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1,568 Sawdust Hearts

Thanks to Cathy of Nanacathydotcom, I am taking part in a beautifully poignant Sawdust Heart project curated by Untangled Threads.

My Sawdust Heart is decorated in Memory of my Great Uncle, John Henry Absalom

who died, aged 17, on 10th July, 1916, in the Battle for Mametz Wood on the Somme in France. (photo courtesy of my second cousin HA)

His body was never found but his name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial, northern France, which commemorates 72,246 soldiers missing in action.

I ordered some organic cotton printed with Welsh Dragonssawdust heart

I found this project surprisingly difficult to do. Each time I started thinking about what to do I felt shaky and anxious.

My Grandfather was 11 when his beloved brother John left for France, never to return. My Grandfather never got over it and would talk to me of John with tears in his eyes. He hated anything to do with War, as did my father, who fought in the RAF in WW2.

In November 2016 I had the huge honour of being present at a very special ceremony at a school in Nailsea honouring the fallen, including my Great Uncle John.

Being born on Armistice Day has always held great meaning for me, and as a child, I thought of my birthday as Peace Day. I donate to the Poppy Appeal, but I wear a white poppy. My father was proud to fight in ‘A War to End All Wars’ ….. or so he thought ….. sadly human conflict continues.peace poppy

My initial ideas for the heart were far too complicated which meant every time I made a start I hit a hurdle. I did a trial run and decided that would be ‘good enough’, or it would never be finishedsawdust heart

At last it was ready to send.

In the back I tucked a copy of the letter John wrote home to his family

sawdust heart

Letter:

 

France, 13th 1916

 

Dear Mother and All,

Received your most welcomed parcel safely everything was allright packed a treat.

You can imagine how glad I was to receive it, quite a change from our Army diet, hoping you will continue sending them the same, the battery fitted my flash lamp a treat. Received John Bull and Reynolds a few days ago. We have had glorious weather up to date with the exception of a few showers just what you can expect this month.

Our furlow have been cancelled for the time being, but I think we will get it shortly again as they tell me that they often cancel it out here and in a few weeks it starts again.

We are going back to the line again tonight but it is a very quiet place.

Now that the weather is coming we are much more comfortable wile in the trenches.

According to the papers the allies intending to advance all along the line. The sooner it comes the better. Well as we are barred from saying to much about our doings out here I will conclude hoping to find you all as it leaves me in the best of health.

Yours etc John

mind write by return JHA

~

Tomorrow I go with Cathy to the Armistice Commemoration gathering.

 

 

 

Magic, Serendipity and Remembrance

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John Henry Absalom 1898 – 1916 was my Great Uncle who died in the battle for Mametz Wood in Northern France in July 1916.

He was the older brother of my maternal grandfather, who was 12 when John died. My Grandad, George Owen Absalom O.B.E., a teacher and Headmaster, often talked of John, and of the ridiculousness of War and the folly of Governments.

On 8th November my cousin, H, put a post on Facebook with the above poster. A school in Nailsea, Somerset had contacted her because the pupils were doing some research into fallen soldiers and had found the photo of John Absalom that  H had posted. They had chosen him to be one of the 32 soldiers they were honouring at their Remembrance Service on Friday, 11th November.

The posters made by pupils of Nailsea School:
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Given that over 700,000 British soldiers died in the First World War, it is remarkable that Great Uncle john was one of those chosen by Nailsea. I contacted the school to ask if I could attend their Service. I received a very warm invitation to do so and an equally warm welcome when I arrived.

I was met by teacher Jeff and introduced to two pupils who proudly showed me round their really rather beautiful school. I then met with the tutor group who had created the poster for my Great Uncle John. I had taken with me a print out of a letter John had written to his mother

wvp00415

France, 13th 1916

 

Dear Mother and All,

Received your most welcomed parcel safely everything was allright packed a treat.

You can imagine how glad I was to receive it, quite a change from our Army diet, hoping you will continue sending them the same, the battery fitted my flash lamp a treat. Received John Bull and Reynolds a few days ago. We have had glorious weather up to date with the exception of a few showers just what you can expect this month.

Our furlow have been cancelled for the time being, but I think we will get it shortly again as they tell me that they often cancel it out here and in a few weeks it starts again.

We are going back to the line again tonight but it is a very quiet place.

Now that the weather is coming we are much more comfortable wile in the trenches.

According to the papers the allies intending to advance all along the line. The sooner it comes the better. Well as we are barred from saying to much about our doings out here I will conclude hoping to find you all as it leaves me in the best of health.

Yours etc John

mind write by return JHA

The Headmistress, Dee, read it out to us and it brought a tear to her eye. We chatted with the pupils and they asked a few questions. I showed them some photos of John’s family.

I asked what would happen to the poster after the ceremony and was told that they were going to present it to me – that brought a tear to my eye!

I gave Dee my desktop Peace Pole and I was given flowers, chocolates and a birthday card!dsc_0022-1

All very emotional!dsc_0023-1

I was so pleased I had thought of giving the Pole to the school. The thought had occurred to me after reading Cathy’s post about making her own Peace Pole – ‘ripples in the pond’, thank you Cathy.

If you would like to find out more about Peace Poles, click on this link.

We went outside for the Remembrance Service on this crisp sunny November Day.dsc_0026

I stood with the staff and around 900 pupils for a moving speech by the Head, and to hear the 32 names read out, the posters held proudly on display and the Last Post played beautifully by one of the pupils. It always gives me goose-bumps.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99tCg596QSc

Back inside I was so glad to meet with Laura, the teacher who had instigated the projectdsc_0029then I went to see the posters being put up in a display in the school’s magnificent atrium dsc_0072 dsc_0073 dsc_0075

Jeff showed me a cross which had been made by the pupilsdsc_0058I put John’s poster with the others, so that he could take his place with his comrades of the daydsc_0031and had a farewell photo with Jeffdsc_0046

I handed in my visitors badge which just happened to be number 11 – adding to the feeling of magic and serendipity!dsc_0028

before saying goodbye.

What a birthday! What a wonderfully warm, heartfelt and meaningful time!

In my heart I took all my Welsh cousins with me and relatives past and present. My Great-Grandparents had no body to bury. I don’t know how they commemorated their lost son, I know his death affected the whole family very deeply and has helped to instil in me the importance of family connections and support.

John’s name is on the Thiepval Memorial along with 72,245 other soldiers missing in action. My sister Sue went there with a group in 2014 and read his letter out. I don’t think I could go there.

I am grateful to H for researching family history and posting information and photographs. I am grateful to Laura, Dee and Jeff, the pupils I met and the whole of Nailsea School for such a warm welcome and beautiful way of making this year’s Remembrance Day so very meaningful to so many people. It feels important, I can’t find the words to express that as well as I would like to, but my hope is that in remembering, we go forward and each one of us, in our way, work towards PEACE, in our heart, in our home, in our community, our country and our world.

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With love ❤