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One century after Battle of Passchendaele St Peter Mancroft hosts moving memorial

Geoff Woolsey-Brown, secretary of the PCC, with the commemorative memorial book containing over 174,000 names of people from the UK and Ireland, who lost their lives in Belguim, on show in St Peter Mancroft Church. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Geoff Woolsey-Brown, secretary of the PCC, with the commemorative memorial book containing over 174,000 names of people from the UK and Ireland, who lost their lives in Belguim, on show in St Peter Mancroft Church. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2017

A century ago the Battle of Passchendaele came to an end.

Some of the 174,000 names of people from the UK and Ireland, who lost their lives in Belguim, in the commemorative memorial book on show in St Peter Mancroft Church. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYSome of the 174,000 names of people from the UK and Ireland, who lost their lives in Belguim, in the commemorative memorial book on show in St Peter Mancroft Church. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

It had claimed the lives of thousands of British soldiers as one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War.

Today a book listing 173,000 casualties who lost their lives in Belgium during the war is on display at St Peter Mancroft church.

It is accompanied by five empty chairs from St Audomarus Church in the Belgian village of Passchendaele. It was completely rebuilt after the war after Ypres was torn apart by ferocious fighting.

Each chair represents the casualties of one year of the conflict.

The installation is titled The Assembly, conceived by Derbyshire artist Val Carman, and is touring the British Isles before returning to the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres for Armistice Day 2018.

The Revd Canon Ian Bentley, interim vicar of St Peter Mancroft said: “The simplicity of this exhibition is very moving and we are honoured to have the installation in Norfolk during the centenary of the end of the Battle of Passchendaele to act as a focus for remembrance season.”

The Assembly was introduced to St Peter Mancroft by Val Carman.

She said: “Memorials are places where people can mourn, either collectively or alone, they allow us the moment to grieve. Although varied in their political or religious content, they are often seen as symbols of national pride, being created through dramatic architecture or sculptures.

“You only have to visit Tyne Cott cemetery in Passchendaele and see the 11,000 graves and 34,000 names of the missing inscribed on the memorial walls to realise that the carnage in WW1 was unimaginable. Due to the horrific nature of the weaponry it was often difficult to assess who or how many had officially been killed, and tragically, many bodies were never found.

It came as a relief to find that sharing the loss was to become a way of trying to cope with the tragedy. This collective memory was to find a place in our many villages, towns and city memorials, be they sculptures, architectural monuments or wall plaques.”

The Assembly is at St Peter Mancroft until Friday, November 24 and a special event Witnessing Passchendaele is planned for the evening of Thursday, November 23.

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