VIDEO: Barnsley Pals return as Somme memorial art work is brought to life
The Barnsley Pals who died on the first day of the Battle Of The Somme are back on parade - thanks to a new permanent home for an award winning piece of public art and amazing new technology.
Light Lines, featuring many of the soldiers' faces etched on to panels that light up at night, was a temporary installation outside Barnsley Town Hall last year commemorating the Somme's 100th anniversary - see video story and 360 photo.
It now has a new permanent home at Churchfield Peace Gardens, an old disused cemetery opposite St Mary’s Church, in Church Lane.
And it features an information panel where visitors can magically turn photos into videos and links using just their mobile phones or tablets and an amazing free augmented reality app.
It reveals archive footage of the WW1 soldiers going off to war, along with video reports about the creation of the art work and the town's 100th anniversary service commemorating the infamous battle.
Future plans could include 3D pop ups of Somme artefacts and possibly of a soldier in full kit.
Barnsley Council is using the same technology to bring their Ancient Egypt In Yorkshire exhibitions poster to life - users download the free Aurasma app, follow Barnsley Museums and point their device, in the app's camera mode, at images displaying an Aurasma A-sign logo.
A service and blessing led by St Mary's curate Fr Craig Tomlinson was held to mark the unveiling of the art work's new home and to launch Barnsley British Legion's annual Poppy Appeal.
Light Lines honours the 300 men from the town who lost their lives on the first day of the battle, on July 1, 1916 - the heaviest loss of life in a single day in British Military history.
Most of them were the ill-fated men of the 13th and 14th Battalions of the York and Lancaster Regiment, the Barnsley Pals, so-called because they lived, worked, signed up and in many cases died together.
The two Pals battalions were brigaded with the Sheffield City Battalion (12th Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment) and the Accrington Pals (11th Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment) in the 94th Brigade of the 31st Division.
The battle, which raged until November, claimed the lives of around 800 of them, aged 17 to 48. In total, almost one million lives were lost at the Somme.
Private Fred Walker, featured on the signage, died on the first day, aged 35, along with brothers Ernest, 33 and Charles, 31. His story typifies how families suffered terrible, unimaginable heartbreak.
Registered with the Imperial War Museum as an official war memorial, Light Lines has already won a prestigious Civic Trust Award.
Created by artists Musson+Retallick, it also features medallions, representing memories of home, made last year by local school children.
Jono Retallick said: "It touched lots of peoples' lives, so much so they wanted it back."
Neil Musson added: "It's significant too because it's actually in the cemetery now. Installing the art work is like putting the soldiers to rest again.
"We were so honoured to create this art work and moved by how much it touched people, including families of those who died at the Somme. Now a permanent exhibition it means they have somewhere to pay their respects."
Mayor of Barnsley Jeff Ennis said: "This is very, very important. The Barnsley Pals were magnificent. We have the Barnsley Pals Square next to the Town Hall. We really must never forget the sacrifice these lads made. My dad's great uncle William died in 1916 and my dad is named after him. Mine is just one example of the sacrifice families in Barnsley made during the Battle Of The Somme. It's fantastic and in such a prominent location, with Dickie Bird's statue opposite. We get people from all over the world coming to see that. They can now come wander over here and look at this magnificent display."
Coun Roy Miller said: “It was vital that a permanent home was found for Light Lines. The artwork means so much to the town, its residents and particularly to the families and friends of the brave men included in the piece. World War One changed the face of history and we cannot thank those who fought for our freedom enough, this memorial is just one way to show our unending appreciation.”
It was funded by Barnsley Council, Barnsley Ward Alliances, Arts Council England and Historic England’s Heritage Schools programme. Its relocation was also funded by Barnsley Museums and Heritage Trust and donations to Barnsley Pals Plinth, with support for the Civic Trust Awards from NPS Barnsley.
Margot Walker, chair of trustees for Barnsley Museums & Heritage Trust, said: “We are extremely proud to support the rehoming of Light Lines to a permanent town centre space. The installation is a powerful artwork that brings Barnsley people from our past to touch our present day lives.
"Our aim as a charitable trust is to preserve Barnsley’s legacy for future generations to ensure the town’s history is never lost, and this installation is testament to that. This has been made possible through generous donations from visitors to our museums.”
Private Fred Walker, ho died with his brothers Ernest and Charles on the first day of the Somme, is the great grandfather of journalist Graham Walker who said: "Light Lines is much more than an incredible piece of public art - it is now a permanent memorial honouring all the brave Barnsley men who gave their lives. They are back at last, standing on parade and poignantly in the town's old cemetery, which gives families and others a place to offer their respects and honour the men who gave the biggest sacrifice for a better tomorrow.
"Three brothers killed on the same day would make national headlines these days. But the tragedy was lost among the carnage, as brigade after brigade was ground to a bloody pulp.
"They were told German posts had been so heavily bombed that they wouldn't face any opposition when they went over the top and to casually walk towards the enemy. "Nothing could have be further from the truth. They were mown down in lines. Survivors told how they saw fallen comrades strung on barbed wire like washing out to dry."
Both Barnsley Pals' battalions took part in the attack on Serre on the first day of the Somme campaign.
Graham, who with family has visited the site to pay respect, added: "What was hell on Earth is now a well-tended farmer’s field, down a tranquil, idyllic country lane near the tiny village of Serre.
"Fred and Ernest, unlike Charles, do not have graves. Their final resting place remains in that farmer';s field. All their names are carved on the nearby Thiepval Memorial, commemorating the 72,085 men who died in the area."