Lancashire has been thrust into the front line of Britain’s plans to mark the 100th anniversary of the ending of the First World War.
Life-sized Tommy figures are to be unveiled at three iconic locations in the next few days, making the Red Rose county the first to pledge its support to the nation’s “There But Not There” campaign.
The 6ft tall aluminium cut-outs will be sited at Preston Railway Station, Lancaster Castle and the Accrington Pals chapel in a poignant commemoration of the centenary of the guns falling silent in 1918.
Lancashire has also launched a business committee, spearheaded by the county’s High Sheriff, to help drive community support for a project which aims to raise more than £15m nationally for armed forces and mental health charities.
“We want the whole community to show their support for the charity and encourage businesses to get on board during this important year of commemoration,” said the Lord-Lieutenant of Lancashire, Lord Shuttleworth.
“The ‘There But Not There’ campaign is a hugely worthwhile cause, honouring those men - local and afar - who made the ultimate sacrifice and raising money for those in need today.”
In 2014, to mark 100 years since the start of the Great War, a sea of 888,246 red ceramic poppies - one for each lost soldier - surrounded the Tower of London in a powerful show of remembrance.
Four years on the nation is planning to honour the fallen with what is being called the Tommy Project.
Hundreds of the six-foot Tommies will be popping up all over Britain as part of the “There But Not There” art installation - the 2018 Armistice project for the charity Remembered.
It is hoped they will encourage families to buy their own 10-inch versions to remember relatives who made the ultimate sacrifice 100 years ago.
Perspex seated silhouettes, different in shape to the standing Tommy, will be available for local communities to purchase - hopefully one for each of the names on their Great War memorials - to be placed in public spaces.
And smaller name blocks, remembering a solitary soldier, will also be on offer.
The former head of British armed forces, General the Lord Dannatt, who is a patron of the project, said: “Our hope is that more regional organisations across the UK will follow in the footsteps of Lancashire County Council.
“Their commitment to the ‘There But Not There’ campaign is vital in securing support and raising funds across the county.
“We would encourage all Lancastrians to visit the local Tommy installations, galvanise support in their community groups to buy silhouettes and purchase their own smaller Tommies to remember their fallen relatives.”
Money raised from the sale of the commemorative figures, which are being made by military veterans, will be distributed evenly between six charities.
Veterans making the products
The commemorative products being sold to raise money for charities are all being made by armed forces veterans.
A 6ft standing Tommy is priced at £750, with 10-inch perspex versions in presentation boxes costing £29.99.
Sitting sihouettes for either chairs or benches cost £42 each and name blocks are £10.
The six charities being supported by the project are: Help For Heroes, Combat Stress, Walking With The Wounded, The Royal Foundation, Project Equinox and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
For more information visit www.therebutnotthere.org.uk.
Honouring the fallen
Almost 900,000 British and Commonwealth servicemen and women lost their lives in the 1914-18 conflict. Tens of thousands of those came from Lancashire.
It is estimated at least 2,400 from Preston alone were killed. Lancaster lost more than 1,000 and the Accrington Pals, probably the best-known of all the pals battalions, were all-but wiped out on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
Lancashire’s first three Tommy statues will be sited at:
n Preston Railway Station - Where thousands of army volunteers left to go to war, many never to see their hometown again.
Amongst those who did return were hundreds of wounded soldiers who were invalided back to Preston Station before being transported by horse-drawn ambulances to a special military hospital on Moor Park.
n Lancaster Castle - Which was used as a prison camp for German officers and internees during the conflict.
nThe Accrington Pals Chapel in St John the Evangelist Church in Accrington - Dedicated in 1992 to the town’s fallen, it provides a tranquil setting for remembrance.
Every year a memorial service is held on the nearest Sunday to February 21 - the date in 1915 that the town’s young men set off for war.
On the first morning at The Somme the Accrington Pals lost 584 of their 720 soldiers either killed, wounded or missing.