On Wednesday 10 June a group of East Kent Railway volunteers and I conducted the first sculpture workshop in Shepherdswell. A big Thank You to Mark, Allison, Daniel, Martin and Colin!
Prior to my arrival Mark Hopewell had set up the perfect outdoor work area and had cut the 200 by 200 mm steel post into six sections, so that we could get straight into the process of cutting, bending and bolting. By the end of the day we had finished Dragoon, the first out of six sculptures for The Friendly Army. The mobile sculpture will now find a first temporary location in Shepherdswell before it will be displayed in the DMAG exhibition at the Kent Mining Museum at Betteshanger next summer, returning to the EKR site afterwards.
Dragoon is inspired by two different references. Firstly it pays tribute to the warhorses that were transported on the East Kent Railway line to Hammill (Woodnesborough) Colliery during WW1. Shortly after the outbreak of the war the Hammill site was taken over by the Army for a cavalry remount unit, and horses were stabled in the colliery buildings before they were deployed to the front. In total, more than a million British horses were sent overseas and just 62,000 returned. Additionally the sculpture alludes to the dragon in the badge of The Buffs Regiment.
“The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment), formerly the 3rd Regiment of Foot, was a line infantry regiment of the British Army. It had a history dating back to 1572 and was one of the oldest regiments. In 1881 it was known as the Buffs (East Kent Regiment) and later, on 3 June 1935, was renamed the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment).”
“On the outbreak of World War One (1914-18), 1st Battalion was in Britain and deployed straight to the Western Front. It stayed there throughout the conflict. 2nd Battalion was in India and joined 1st Battalion for 10 months in January 1915, before moving to Salonika for the rest of the war.”
Many of the fallen commemorated on the war memorials in Shepherdswell, Eythorne and other towns and villages in East Kent served with the Buffs Battalions.
Please click on the gallery below for images of WW1 warhorses, a Buffs medal from 1914, the Buffs Memorial Chapel at Canterbury Cathedral and photographs of the sculpture workshop at EKR.