Visitors to the Barry’s Bay Legion Branch 406 may have noticed a new sculpture permanently mounted beside the Cenotaph. The metal silhouette was donated by Mrs. Theresa Bryant of Bracebridge, Ontario in memory of veterans Anthony Puchalski and his son-in-law, Joseph Voldock. Above: “There But Not There” photo Heather Poliquin
Heather Poliquin, Branch 406 President, related the story that inspired this moving artwork. She said that a CTV interview with General Rick Hillier, former Chief of Defence Staff with the Canadian Forces, in July 2018 explained that dozens of life-size silhouettes were being erected in public spaces across Canada to commemorate 100 years since the end of the First World War. In the interview Gen. Hillier explained that the soldier silhouettes were part of the “There But Not There” campaign, designed to help people “to better understand how the war came to affect millions of people from countries around the world.” He said, “They are the ghosts of those who came before us.”
The program launched in the UK in February 2018 and by that summer had brought in more than $4 million in donations. In Canada, there are silhouettes at several landmarks, including outside Parliament Hill and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa and at Nathan Phillips Square in downtown Toronto.
Taking the names off the wall
The Current dug a little deeper into the story to find out about the artist behind the “There But Not There” campaign. The first silhouettes were created in Perspex by Martin Barraud, an English conceptual photographer. Barraud had the idea of “taking the names off the wall” as he passed by the memorial to 50 young men in Penshurst Church, near where he lives in Kent. “I needed to do something. I wanted to get them back into the village,” he said in an interview with the Evening Standard. He went to the vicar and asked to put the lost boys — the youngest was just 17 — back in the pews. “He hadn’t a clue what I was on about but he said yes.”
Barraud created silhouettes in Perspex for every one of those men — the 17-year-old a little shorter than the rest — and placed them sitting around the church. Local schoolchildren put the men’s names by each one. Three cousins from the Hardinge family sat together; as did two brothers. And alone in the church he had the uncanny feeling “there was someone there.”
That was in 2016 and from there the project took off. Word got around — other communities wanted to do the same and the Army was interested. In the UK the goal was to have a figure to represent every one of the 883,246 men from Britain and Ireland who died. From the Commonwealth as a whole, the total was 1.5 million.
Silhouette sales support veterans
Poliquin said that sales of the silhouettes have raised money for several international charities that support veterans. The benefiting charities include the True Patriot Love Foundation, which supports Canadian veterans, and the Invictus Games Foundation, which uses the power of sport to help rehabilitate ill and injured veterans.