Visitors to my Facebook page will be well aware that one of my favourite subjects to photograph is the amazing Tommy statue, at nearby Seaham Harbour. There's something special about this piece of art and you really do get that vibe when standing next to the big man. The craftsmanship that went into this creation is there for all to see, especially on closer inspection when you can judge for yourself. I've photographed Tommy on numerous occasions, during different seasons, day and night, and in all weather conditions.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with the statue, Tommy sits thoughtfully, head bowed, rifle in hand, as he reflects upon the sheer horror of World War One during the first minute after peace was declared in 1918. This imposing metal sculpture, entitled 1101, owing to the fact the armistice went into effect at 11am on November 11, 1918, stands 9ft 5ins tall and weighs 1.2 tonnes. Built out of special corteen steel, it has been installed on Seaham seafront in Country Durham to mark the centenary of the start of the Great War.
Created by local artist Ray Lonsdale, the sculpture is also intended to represent Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which many of the returning soldiers endured. Mr Lonsdale got his idea for the piece after hearing a story about a soldier from nearby Murton who won a war medal. Tommy was originally on loan for three months to the former colliery town, but local residents instantly took him to their hearts and raised a massive £80,000 to make him a permanent fixture. He certainly put Seaham Harbour back on the map.
In the week running up to Remembrance Day 2016, an eye-catching display was laid out in front of the statue. Hundreds of hand painted pebbles were arranged in the form of a poppy, which is 18ft wide. The artwork is the brainchild of former serviceman Dave McKenna, who wanted to create something to link the statue to the town’s cenotaph. “We have had help from the cadets and Seaham Veterans group,” said Dave. The poppy will remain in place until this Sunday, Remembrance Day.“It is not a permanent, fixture, it’s just there for this week,” said Dave.
Once again my tea light candles made an appearance, and in such a fitting way as a tribute to all those who paid the ultimate price during warfare. Just as well these were battery operated lights, as it was blowing a gale during the ten minute photo session. I could see the waves crashing over Seaham Pier, in the distance. I drove down there to get a closer look, but the car park gates were locked. Maybe just as well - I was soon back in the car and heading home. Another job done ...