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A breathtaking tribute to Bridlington's war victims

Sometimes, the simplest ideas are the most effective.

When Bridlington Priory wanted a way to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One, they came up with something which seems straightforward but has an incredible impact.

Historian Chris Bonnett, artist Stephen Carvill, churchwarden Helen Hughes and teh Rev Matthew Pollard.

Historian Chris Bonnett, artist Stephen Carvill, churchwarden Helen Hughes and teh Rev Matthew Pollard.

They have created 335 life-size cardboard silhouettes, which have been placed around the pews of the imposing 900-year-old church.

It is emotional, poignant and takes your breath away to see a tribute on such a scale in an already awe-inspiring building.

“It has been an emotional thing to do,” said the Rector, the Rev Matthew Pollard. “We have had families in looking for their ancestors.”

Four different templates have been made, one for soldiers, one for sailors, one for airman and one to mark the emigrants from Bridlington who died while serving with the Australian forces.

Each silhouette carries a name badge

Each silhouette carries a name badge

Each of the four designs has a different hat, and all 335 have a name badge showing the name, rank, regiment and age at death of the men.

There is also one unnamed silhouette to represent an Unknown Warrior.

The idea of the silhouettes came partly from the tribute to the airmen at the Lissett Memorial

Artist Stephen Carvill, who made the Gansey Girl statue on Bridlington Harbour, drew up the basic designs.

Stephen Carvill designed the templates.

Stephen Carvill designed the templates.

“I made templates from paper and it only took a short time. I think Helen (church warden Helen Hughes) and I had a very similar picture in our minds and we knew this was right.I’m used to working with stone but this is just as powerful.”

Helen was a key figure in the project from the start, taking it from an idea to a very striking reality.

She said: “The card came from a mill in Lancashire, and it is all recycled, but it needed to be rigid enough for the figures to sit up.”

They have been dotted around the church in a random order, although four of the fallen who were members of the Priory Choir a decade ago have been placed in the choir stalls.

Historian Chris Bonnett has written a book about Bridlington's war victims

Historian Chris Bonnett has written a book about Bridlington's war victims

At the back of the church, at the memorial to the Green Howards regiment is to silhouette representing Capt George Bell Purvis.

He died in Belgium in 1917. Years later his father, who was a chemist in Bridlington at the building which is now H Samuel jewellers, donated the temporary cross which was placed on his grave overseas to the Priory.

Helping with information like this has been local historian and author Chris Bonnett, who has written a book with Mike Wilson chronicling the Bridlington men who died in the war. Chris cut out the silhouettes representing his great uncle John Henry Simpson and his wife’s great uncle William Henry Lamplough.

“War affects us all, one way or another. I was absolutely stunned when I first saw this.” he said.

Rev Pollard said making the project work had been down to many members of the Priory community.

“It has been a great team effort. People were so enthusiastic,” he said. “We had a couple of Saturday morning sessions cutting out and members of the congregation took them home and you would see them walking into church with half-a-dozen under their arm.”

There are 335 soldiers around the church

There are 335 soldiers around the church

Visitors have been quick to praise the installation, which will remain in place until November, although the figures can be moved if necessary, when the church hosts a concert or a wedding.

Rev Pollard said: “After the 1940s festival, people I didn’t even know found my email address and sent me a message saying they had been moved to tears when they came in.”

Chris added: “I work at the Bayle Museum and I had three ladies come in in tears and say it is a fantastic thing.”

The census of 1911 showed that Bridlington’s population was around 8,000.

Just over 2,000 were men aged between 15 and 49 years old, which means one in six men of fighting age from the town died during World War One.

The youngest to give his life was George Denny, who was just 16.

121 children were left without a father.

Of the 335 casualties from Bridlington, 301 were soldiers, 28 were sailors and six were airmen from the Royal Flying Corps, which became the RAF in April 1918.

Members of the same family have been kept together and a chaplain has been placed at the front of the church.

After Remembrance Day, descendants will be allowed to take the silhouette of their loved one home as a memento.

Church warden Helen Hughes said: “The lighting in the church makes them look wonderful, you get the reflection from the cushions which turns them red like poppies.

“And the colours from the stained glass really comes through in the afternoons.

“People who remember the survivors are getting fewer and fewer, so this is a wonderful tribute.”