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Veterans' art recalls war in Salonika

Exhibition aims to highlight forgotten front

Charlotte Booth

Charlotte Booth

charlotte.booth@newburynews.co.uk

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Veterans' art recalls war in Salonika

BURGHCLERE’S Sandham Memorial Chapel hosted the grand opening of the Salonika Reflections art exhibition.

The exhibition is part of the Away from the Western Front campaign, which hopes to highlight aspects of the First World War which were far removed from Flanders and the Western Front. 

The exhibition represents the work of eight homeless or nearly homeless veterans, who are resident at a veteran home in Salisbury, run by the charity Alabaré.

Artist Susan Francis, from Salisbury, has worked with the military veterans since October to explore their experience of service and relate it to records from the First World War Salonika campaign.

Ms Francis said: “This project started with the Salonika campaign and the intention to make it more well-known.

“I wanted to work with veterans and I had already worked with the charity Alabaré.

“I wanted each veteran to present their individual approach to the campaign.

“This was challenging, as they are military veterans who are used to following orders.

“They came to see the work of Stanley Spencer and then heard the history and stories of the people who were in the Salonika campaign.

“They are all in a difficult situation, where it is difficult to have your voice heard as an individual, and to be part of this project was to make sure history was presented.”

One of the artists, Oli Hulland, 42, enlisted in the army when he was 16.

He said: “When you’ve finished your training that’s the first thing you want to do [get into conflict] and you’re only a kid, you’re invincible and all you really want is excitement.

“I didn’t want to go killing people, I was 16, I wanted a buzz, you know what I mean.

“I joined the army when I left school. I wanted fun and adventure.”

One of Mr Hulland’s pieces in the exhibition shows him in uniform against a wall which forms the centre of a white poppy. 

He added: “A white poppy instead of a red one symbolises peace. It is not supporting the war effort.”

The Sandham Memorial Chapel was chosen to host the exhibition as it is dedicated to Harry Sandham, who was a Salonika veteran.

Additionally, the military paintings in the chapel by Sir Stanley Spencer reflect his time at Salonika as part of the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Away from the Western Front is a two-year project (2017-2019) funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, with additional grants from the British Institute for the Study of Iraq (Gertrude Bell Memorial) and the Centre for Hidden Histories.

The exhibition will be open until November.  

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