St Mary the Virgin Church Shrewsbury
10:00 – 16:00 until 13 August 2016

Carl Jaycock is a generous man. With his wife, Zareen, he has spent months tracking down and photographing some 200 war memorials in Shropshire. The art project (financed by Arts Council England) which has resulted now stands like a pyramid before the altar of St Mary the Virgin, Shrewsbury. A pyramid crowned by a half sphere of soil from the Somme.

Into No Man’s Land with the Post Codes

The logistics of these encyclopaedic art works are always daunting: often more daunting than, in Carl’s case, the photography itself. Guided by him, I have followed in his electronic tyre-tracks and footprints from the Imperial War Museum’s site. It was tempting to slip in the post code to his GPS. Tempting, but Carl was twice lured into ‘a field of cows’ rather than to church and memorial.

I would have predicted that Carl and Zareen’s labour of love would involve much painstaking research and organisation. The 900 IWM sites were whittled down to 400 ‘possibles’. Once on the ground, as opposed to the internet, some had moved, or were lost and others were even harder to access. Carl’s artwork uses some 200 sites ‘in may stunning settings’.

Why then did we find him generous to a fault? Because having laboured, having driven, having tracked down the memorials to create his art project, now he’s urging you and me to see for ourselves ‘it’s really worth going out and about and seeing these objects and places. As with a lot of art, it’s always best to go and see it for real.’ I am struggling to imagine M. Monet standing by his murals of the water lilies saying “You must come to my garden at Giverney and see them for yourself.”

The men on the memorials

50-MARKET DRAYTON-HIGH STREET-STONE CELTIC CROSSApproach the installation and I’m sure you will be drawn in. The statistics of the First World War are so over-powering, I always find myself looking at the individuals on the memorials. My glance fell on the Market Drayton War Memorial and the name Ralphs A. To Mary and John his parents and wife, Winefred, he was “Arthur.” His story amongst the most poignant I know. His job in Civvy Street was a number-taker on the Great Western Railway. His job to record the numbers of other railway companies’ wagons using the goods yard at Market Drayton.

How did he come to die in Russia? How did he come to die on Armistice Day? On November 11th 1918 Arthur and the other men of ‘C’ Force Royal Scots were attacked by 1,000 Bolshevik troops. Bitter hand-to-hand fighting developed as our men sought to repulse the attack. 19 men were killed including Market Drayton’s Arthur Ralphs.

My advice? Pop into St Mary’s first and then let Carl’s work inspire you to look at the range of intriguing memorials from all over Shropshire.