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Tributes “engraved in the sand”

engraved sand portraits

Last weekend we saw the nation come together in the culmination of memorial events for all who fell in war and, especially, World War I.

People up and down the country recognised the sacrifice that others made for our wellbeing, with the final focus being at the Cenotaph in London where the dates of the First World War are engraved in Roman numerals at each end.

This concluded proceedings across Britain, including the knitting of thousands of poppies, processions in every town and village, and the release of the utterly compelling and moving film from Peter Jackson.

However, what caught our attention most of all was perhaps the tribute directed by Danny Boyle on the beaches.

The Oscar winning director invited members of the public to assemble at a number of beaches in the UK where large scale portraits of casualties from the war were made in the sand.

Creating the images of people like Wilfred Owen at low-tide, the portraits were admired by thousands of people on the ground (and around the world).

As Mr Boyle said, the beaches of England were the places from which millions of men and women left to take part in the war, and so was a fitting place to remember what they did for us when they left our shores.

Moreover, beaches are amongst the few truly public spaces, and so was a natural convening point for everyone to show their respects.

But, perhaps most powerfully of all, was the way that the portraits were lost to the sea as high tides came in.

Just as men took to the sea over 100 years ago to fight for their country, so the sea was reclaiming their memory again.

What was also of note to us here at Engravers Guild was how one news outlet described the portraits as being “engraved” in the sand.

As we perennially comment about how engravings last forever, this appeared a contradiction of terms – especially given how the images lasted only a few hours.

However, what the portraits on the beach created was a visual tribute that will forever be remembered by everyone who saw it.

While the art “engraved” in the sand was fleeting, the impression “engraved” in our memories will be lasting.

So just as those portraits were engraved in the sand, so our thanks to those who fell in the war are engraved in our hearts.