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April 2016

England Rugby star discovers relative is among Somme Fallen

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ENGLAND and Exeter Chiefs rugby star Jack Nowell has discovered that a family member was among the soldiers who fell on the first day of the battle of the Somme and who will be commemorated in an astonishing centenary project this summer.

The 19240 Shrouds of the Somme project aims to remember all 19,240 allied soldiers who died on 1st July 1916. Artist Rob Heard has created hand-stitched, shrouded figurines to represent every one of them and the installation will be unveiled on July 1st.

Jack Nowell 19240 names 5Cornishman Jack discovered that his great, great Uncle Frank was among them at a charity dinner at the Exeter Chiefs’ ground to raise money for the project. His father, Newlyn trawlerman Mike Nowell, knew that Francis Nowell had fought and died at the Somme because the Nowell family visit the war memorial where he is listed every year.

What they didn’t know was that he was one of the 19240 who died on the first day.

Only after checking the boards of lists which were brought to the dinner did they discover that Francis Nowell was one of the men who fought and died on the first day of the battle of the Somme.

“It all came as a bit of a surprise really,” said Jack. “It wasn’t until I attended the recent 19240 Shrouds of the Somme Dinner here at the club that I found out the history of it all.

“I know there is a memorial back in Newlyn that lists the name of my great, great uncle, but now hearing what happened during the battle and that one of my only relatives was involved, it really did bring it home to me what happened all those years ago.”

Committee member Mel Bradley MBE from the 19240 Shrouds of the Somme explained the astonishing coincidence at the dinner where Jack had donated a signed shirt for the auction:

“I asked Jack’s dad if he knew if Frank was one of the 19240 who died on the first day,” she explained. “He thought it possible so I checked the boards of names which were behind him and Francis Nowell was on the last board. Rob only bought the first 6 of10 boards. Francis’ name was just below the green lines where Rob had got to in making the shrouds. So I got Jack’s dad and showed him – he was quite touched.”

The 19240 Shrouds of the Somme project will be unveiled in Exeter’s Northernhay Gardens on July 1st this year at 7:30am. It not only aims to provide a powerful visual depiction of the vast loss of life but schools across the UK are invited to get involved in their education project.

They are also asking the public to help by using the power of the internet to create the biggest database of the fallen on that day that has ever existed.

“We believe that in this age of digital technology we have a chance like never before of building up a comprehensive portfolio of information about the soldiers who gave their lives on that tragic day,” says artist Rob Heard who came up with the project.

“We want schools, communities, families and individuals to get involved and let us know if they have any information about anyone, a friend, relative, neighbour or member of their community.

Photos, stories, memories and any further information that we can use to build up a picture of them to remember who they were instead of just a name on a list will help to commemorate them properly and help future generations understand the real human cost of war.”

Now Jack is set to honour his great Uncle Frank by crossing his name off the list of completed Shrouds crafted by Rob.

Thousands raised at Somme Dinner for 19240 Shrouds project

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Royal Marines band at Sandy ParkEXETER CHIEFS AND ENGLAND RUGBY SUPERSTAR JACK NOWELL was among 250 guests at a special centenary dinner in aid of a project to remember 19,240 Allied servicemen who lost their lives on the first day of the Battle of the Somme at Sandy Park.

It was an emotional and poignant evening and one where the rugby star discovered his Great Great Uncle Francis Nowell was among those tragically killed on that day.

BFBS Shirley Swain flanked by Jack Nowell & Henry Slade at Somme DinnerThis year marks 100 years since the bloodiest day in British military history and the 19240 Shrouds of the Somme project aims to bring into sharp focus the true reality, loss and sacrifice of every individual who died on the 1st of July 1916.

 Artist Rob Heard has been hand crafting thousands of shroud-covered miniature figurines – each representing the exact number of soldiers killed.

 Once complete the mass of figures will be laid out side-by-side in a thought-provoking vision at the Northernhay Gardens in Exeter and in time for Armed Forces Day.
During the gala dinner event Her Majesty’s Band of the Royal Marines performed a spectacular Beating of the Retreat on the pitch for guests seated in the main stand.

Winning bidder for Jack Nowell's England shirt at Somme DinnerPaul Martin of BBC’s Flog It! fame auctioned off some incredible items, including the very first shrouded figure, number 00001 which was sold for £1,000. By the end of the night more than £14,000 was raised for the 19240 Shrouds of the Somme project.

The sFirst Shroud sold at auction to Tony Rowe Chairman of Exeter Chiefshrouded figures will be sold after being on display – all profits donated to The Exeter Foundation and the forces charity SSAFA. Shrouds can now be pre-ordered from www.thesomme19240.co.uk/shop

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