London – The fallen soldiers of the Battle of the Somme are being individually honored in a touching and evocative series of Poppy Pins, made using materials recovered from the historic battlefield.
TMB Art Metal is creating a limited series of pins – 19,240 in total – one for every soldier killed on the opening day of the battle, July 1, 1916. A masterful combination of aesthetic and symbolic appeal, the Poppy Pins will form a fitting tribute to every son, brother and father who lost their lives fighting for their country. An official project commissioned by The Royal British Legion, the pins are being crafted to mark 100 years since the famous Battle of the Somme in Northern France. Each has been hand made in the UK in London and in Birmingham’s famous Jewelry Quarter.
The materials used to make the pins are what make them truly special. They are crafted from brass taken from British shell fuses salvaged from the Somme battlefield. By taking these fuses and using them to create something of poignant beauty, the Somme 100 Poppy Pins are turning metal that was forged for the purposes of war into silent tributes commemorating the British soldiers who died at the Somme.
The bright golden colored pins are finished by a spot of red enamel in the centre of the poppy, and this too pays tribute to every British soldier that lost their life at the Somme, as it contains a small amount of earth recovered from the July 1, 1916 British frontline, which stretched for 25 kilometers (18 miles) across the countryside.
As well as being a poignant tribute to the fallen, the beautiful Poppy Pins will also benefit modern day Service men and women, veterans and their families, as all profits will go to The Royal British Legion.
The pins are the creation of Christopher Bennett, the man behind TMB Art Metal. Christopher has experience of similar projects with TMB, having crafted pieces using materials from many historic vehicles and planes, including a Hurricane fighter that famously crashed in London in 1940 following a successful attempt to bring down a marauding German bomber intent on attacking the capital.
Creating the Poppy Pins is something he describes as an honor, saying: “While holding a piece of a legendary car or plane in my hand is fantastic and a privilege, it is truly humbling to hold a piece of profound history in the form of a shell fuse found on the Somme.
“To walk along the old front line and find these fuses linked to such an important event in our country’s history is what this project is all about. These men were loyal everyday volunteers, and none of them understood the situation they were going to be encountering, but all of them – the men who died and who lived – were heroes. This was very much a labor of love, and is a project that has meant a lot to me personally.
“This is the first poppy that honors the fallen of our World Wars that allows you to wear and carry a piece of history with you at all times. The annual Poppy Appeal is a wonderful tribute, but is very seasonal. The Somme 100 Poppy Pin is a subtle and tasteful tribute that can be worn by anyone, all year round. By crafting the pins by hand, I feel we have recognized the individuals in a way that anonymous factory mass production could never achieve.”
Christopher personally collected shell fuses and the earth from the Somme, with additional fuses coming from a recycling centre in the local area. These had been gathered by local farmers, unearthed whilst harvesting potatoes in the peaceful fields that now form the site of the former battlefield.
The metal from the fuses was melted down to remove impurities, before being cast, fettled and polished to create the miniature poppies. The finishing touch is a spot of red enamel paint in the centre of the poppy, which contains granules of Somme earth within.
The idea to add the earth came when Christopher was walking the front line during one of his visits. He knew that he needed to honor the very battlefield itself, by incorporating the ground the soldiers of 1916 fought upon, died upon and that many still lay at peace beneath.
The Royal British Legion’s Director of Fundraising, Charles Byrne, said: “The Somme 100 Poppy Pin is a poignant tribute to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefields of the Somme, one hundred years ago. There are very few UK communities which were unaffected by the terrible losses sustained at frontline in Northern France and, as the national custodian of Remembrance, The Royal British Legion has commissioned this special pin as part of a program of activity to mark the centenary of the battle.”
The pins are available from mid-May through the Royal British Legion online Poppy Shop priced at £39.99, with all proceeds benefitting the charity.