Anyone who has walked or driven around Ripon lately will surely have seen this series of very moving and thought-provoking silhouette soldiers - in fact, they’re the talk of the city.
And if you haven’t seen them for yourself, the chances are that you have heard about them or read about the project on social media.
That’s because the sculptures have really struck a chord with residents across the city. Ripon’s vast and deeply-rooted connections with the First World War and other conflicts means that every resident seems to be drawing their own personal meanings and reflections from the silhouette soldiers when they see them.
Placed at meaningful locations throughout Ripon, the metal soldiers have been put up as part of the city’s packed programme of events and commemorations to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.
The aim of the project is to return First World War servicemen and women to the streets of Ripon, to sensitively provoke discussions and wider reflection about the sacrifices made during the war.
Already, the team behind the silhouette soldiers has been contacted by a number of veterans, who have welcomed the project as an important way of remembering those who served in the First World War - at its height, Ripon hosted more than 30,000 soldiers.
Most of the sculptures can be seen at St John’s Church in Sharow, and at North Bridge, Spa Gardens and Hell Wath. They will also be placed at Ripon Cathedral and Rotary Way.
Project coordinator and heritage learning officer Joe Priestley said: “We are delighted with the fantastic response that we have had to the project. It’s very much meant to be something that people can draw their own personal reflections from.
“What I love about the Ripon effort is that it is the community doing it for themselves. We are remembering in our own way.”
Reader Diane Thompson said: “It brings it home to me how harrowing it was to wave goodbye to a loved one, with so very many not returning. A cruel time.”
Alongside Joe, the silhouette soldiers have been the brainchild of Dan Metcalfe and Jeanne Mundy, whose designs have been digitised by Joe and generously produced by Econ Engineering.
Stuart Martin and Ripon Community Poppy Project have also played an important role in bringing the silhouette soldiers to the streets of Ripon.
Ripon Farm Services have helped to install the sculptures, and thanks also goes to the Vision Project at St John’s Church in Sharow, as well as a team of dedicated volunteers.
Joe Priestley will be giving a talk about the silhouette soldiers at St John’s Church on October 13 at 1.15pm.