In 2018 a variety of creative projects have been launched to mark the centenary of the Armistice. One such project is the “There But Not There” campaign which commemorates the lost generation of the First World War. The origins of this idea came from the Penshurst Church Remembrance Project called “No Longer A Name On A Wall.” They are an installation of perspex silhouettes of figures of soldiers which are produced by the Royal British Legion Industries. This project has now been widely taken up by churches throughout the UK as part of a national campaign of remembrance.
This project aims to promote the remembrance of the fallen of the Great War. It is intended to enable communities to take the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in this conflict off the Rolls of Honour and back into the spaces they left behind. It reminds us of the individual sacrifices made by so many young men and it seeks to honour their loss. The Friends of St George’s Trustees recently purchased three of these silhouettes as a gift to the church. The Chair of the Friend’s Trustees Sir Edward Crofton brought them over in April and placed them on chairs at the back of the church. He has named them Tom, Dick and Harry.
St George’s Memorial Church was particularly interested in taking part in this project because we receive visits from many UK school groups every year. St George’s church holds a remarkable collection of 116 school memorial plaques including the Eton School Roll of Honour and some schools bring groups of their pupils here to see their school plaques every year. The Great War is one of the topics on the Key Stage 3 History National Curriculum and many secondary schools make annual tours of the Flanders battlefields in order to give their students first hand experience of their WW1 studies. The “There But Not There” project aims to educate today’s younger generation, born nearly 100 years after the outbreak of WW1, to understand what led to the deaths of 888,246 British and Commonwealth men. The silhouettes serve to take the names written upon memorial plaques and to recreate them as personal figures. They prompt their viewers to consider the personal sacrifices which are represented by the traditional memorial plaques and honour rolls on the walls of the church.
The silhouettes provide a moving and dignified addition to the collection of memorials to the fallen of the Great War which are central to the identity of St George’s Memorial Church in Ypres. The church was built at the request of the regiments who wished to have a memorial dedicated to their comrades who fought and fell here during the Great War. The intention was to build the church not only as a memorial but also as somewhere for the relatives to visit and find a peaceful place for reflection. This was especially important in the cases of soldiers for which there was no known grave. Their names are all recorded on several memorials including the Menin Gate Memorial which is the twin memorial to St George’s church.
The church was built in 1927 by the architect Reginald Bromfield who also designed the Menin Gate and the Cross of Sacrifice which may be found in all Commonwealth War Grave cemeteries. The intention was that the interior would serve as a memorial to individuals, families, schools and the military units themselves who in many cases donated many items of furniture, plaques, windows, the font and the altar. To emphasise the memorial identity of the church a replica of the CWGC Cross of Sacrifice was installed on the roof directly above the altar. It was the intention of the Founders of St George’s Memorial church that we should provide an ongoing ministry of the remembrance of the fallen and pastoral care to their families and descendants who still continue to come here as pilgrims one hundred years after the events of the Great War. The “There But Not There” silhouettes mark the latest phase of an ongoing memorial ministry at St George’s church which is illustrated by a range of unique commemorative monuments including wall plaques, stained glass windows, regimental banners and standards, embroidered coloured kneelers and the peal of memorial bells.
The chaplain Revd Gillian Trinder (email@example.com) is available upon request to meet with visitors, for guided group tours of the church and visits to the Ringing Chamber in the tower, for Services of Remembrance in the church and graveside memorial services in the war cemeteries and other special services by arrangement.