Private Stanley McDougall VC and Rifleman Kulbir Thapa VC, who served in the First World War, will be commemorated in large-scale sand portraits for Danny Boyle’s Armistice commission Pages of the Sea in Dorset. On Sunday 11 November, the public is invited to assemble at one of thirty-two beaches around the UK and the Republic of Ireland at low-tide for an informal, nationwide gesture of remembrance for the men and women who left their home shores during the First World War.
The sand portraits feature a selection of men and women from the First World War, many of whom died in active service. They have been chosen by Danny Boyle as a representation of the range of individuals, regions and international communities that were part of WW1. These individual’s stories are a just small collection taken from the millions who lost their lives to the war.
Large-scale portraits of Private Stanley McDougall VC and Rifleman Kulbir Thapa VC designed by sand artists Sand In Your Eye, will be drawn into the sand and washed away as the tide comes in. In addition, the public will be asked to join in by creating silhouettes of people in the sand, remembering the millions of lives lost or changed forever by the conflict. Each of the beaches taking part in the project will commemorate a different WW1 casualty.
The ANZACS (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) played a key role in WW1, fighting across the Western Front and notably Gallipoli. As the wounded numbers increased, Weymouth was chosen as the base for the ANZACS to convalesce, due to its relaxing seaside location, with four camps set up in Chickerell, Westham, Littlemoor and Portland. Between 1915 -1919 over 120,000 ANZACS passed through the town, including Stanley McDougall, however, sadly 87 never left and are buried in Melcombe Regis cemetry. The ANZACS were warmly welcomed by the local people of Weymouth, with many soldiers marrying local women. In memory to these troops, some Westham streets are named after Australia together with the ANZAC Memorial on the esplanade.
Private Stanley Robert McDougall VC (23 July 1890 –07 July 1968)
Sergeant in Australian infantry
Won V.C. for single-handedly repulsing German attack
Stanley was born in Tasmania to Susannah and John McDougall. He became a blacksmith, but enlisted in August 1915, joining the 47th Infantry Battalion, Australian Imperial Force. Sent to the western front, he fought at Pozières, Messines and Broodseinde.
In March 1918 at Dernancourt, Sergeant McDougall repulsed a German attack that had breached the allied lines. Single-handed, he charged the enemy’s second wave withrifle and bayonet, killing seven and capturing a machine-gun that he turned on the rest, causing more casualties and routing the advance. Then he fired on those that had already reached the allied trenches, until his ammunition ran out, when he seized a bayonet and killed three more men and an enemy officer. He then used a Lewis gun on the enemy, killing others and enabling his comrades to capture 33 prisoners.
Eight days later, at the same place, this non-commissioned officer won the Military Medal for taking over his platoon when its commander was killed. After the war became an officer with the Tasmanian Forestry Department, later performing outstanding work fighting bushfires as inspector-in-charge of forests in north-east Tasmania. He died at Scottsdale, Tasmania in 1968.
The highly regarded Brigade of Gurkhas have been supporting the British Army for over 200 years, including two world wars through to modern conflict. During the First World War, more than 90,000 Gurkhas enlisted, fighting across Asia, Middle East and Europe where more than 6000 died in action. The Gurkhas gained a reputation for valour earning thousands of medals for gallantry. Today, they continue to be part of the British Army including signals, logistics and engineers, with units based across the south of England.
Rifleman Kulbir Thapa VC (15 December 1889 – 03 October 1956)
Kulbir Thapa made history as the first Gurkha to win a Victoria Cross, the most prestigious British award for bravery.
He was born in the village of Nigalpani, Palpa, Nepal, and in 1907 enlisted in the Indian Army as part of Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles, transferring to 2nd Battalion at the outbreak of war. On September 25 1915, during operations against German trenches south of Mauquissart, he found a badly wounded soldier of the 2nd Leicestershire Regiment behind the first German trench. Although wounded himself and urged by the English soldier to save his own skin, Kulbir stayed with him all day and night.
Early the next morning, in misty conditions, he brought the soldier out through the German wire and having left him in a place of comparative safety, returned and brought back two wounded Gurkhas to the allied lines, one after the other. He then returned in broad daylight to bring back the British soldier, carrying him most of the way under enemy fire. Kulbir himself was admitted to hospital for his wounds and he rejoined his unit in Egypt in 1916. His medal is on display at the Gurkha Museum, Winchester, Hampshire, and in 2015 he was commemorated on a Royal Mail stamp
The public is invited to explore an online gallery of portraits of some of the men and women who served in the First World War, and select someone to thank and say a personal goodbye to either via social media or as they gather in person on beaches on 11 November at www.pagesofthesea.org.uk. The images are drawn from the Imperial War Museum’s ‘Lives of the First World War’ which aims to tell 8 million stories of those who served from Britain and the Commonwealth. Visitors to the website can also add their own portraits of members of their family or community who contributed to the First World War. www.livesofthefirstworldwar.org
Poet Carol Ann Duffy has been invited by Boyle to write a new poem, which will be read by individuals, families and communities as they gather on beaches on 11 November. The Wound in Time is also available online at pagesofthesea.org.uk
The work is commissioned and produced by 14-18 NOW, and is the culmination of the five-year programme of arts commissions marking the First World War centenary. It is delivered with partner organisations across the UK: National Trust; Activate Performing Arts; Creative Foundation; Eden Project; National Theatre Scotland; Nerve Centre; Sunderland Culture; Taliesin. The work is in association with Aberystwyth Arts Centre; The Grand Theatre of Lemmings; Magna Vitae; MOSTYN; SeaChange Arts; Swansea Council; Swansea University; Theatre Orchard; and Visit Blackpool. Each has been invited to create their own event centering around the sand art on the beach and reading of the poem, tailored to reflect the sacrifices of their local community.
Supported by The National Lottery and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
With additional support from Backstage Trust, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch) and National Rail.
Dorset events are also funded by Dorset County Council, West Dorset District Council and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, with additional support from the Arts Development Company and Lyme Regis Town Council.