More than 80,000 people visited the breathtaking art exhibition ‘Shrouds of the Somme’ when it was put on display at Bristol Cathedral during the week marking both Armistice Day and the end of the Battle of the Somme last month…

The Shrouds of the Somme depicts those who fell through the medium of art, with 19,240 hand-stitched, shrouded figures each representing a serviceman of the British Empire who died on the first day of the bloodiest battle in British military history.

People from all over the UK came to see the exhibition on College Green and bear witness in sometimes emotional scenes. One couple travelled 250 miles from North Yorkshire having seen it on the news.

For some the sight was overwhelming and moved many to tears. Names of the 19,240 were listed on boards along with the names of 53,000 others killed at the Somme.

Somerset artist Rob Heard, who took three years to complete the shrouds, said: "the response from the public has been incredible. I really feel this brings home the scale of the loss to people, but still represents each soldier as an individual – something which is so important to relatives, even several generations on."

The project relied heavily on support from 6 Rifles, Bristol Port Authority and BT Openreach who provided volunteers throughout.

More than £16,000 was raised for the Bristol branch of SSAFA The Armed Forces Charity which supports servicemen, veterans and their families in times of need.

The original exhibition in July in Exeter was so popular that organisers took it to Bristol following public pressure.

Artist Rob Heard is now planning another epic exhibition, with plans to create a shroud for each of the 72,246 British servicemen killed at the Somme whose bodies were never recovered.

"In some small way I would like to bring them home," said Rob. The next phase needs funding but if it can be found then Rob hopes to complete this enormous challenge in time to display the shrouds in November 2018 to mark the Centenary of Armistice Day.

"It would be like nothing else ever seen – a quarter of a kilometre of bodies laid out in rows, hopefully somewhere central where it will be seen by hundreds of thousands of people, reminding them of those who made the ultimate sacrifice."

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