Sunday, 24 June 2018

We Remember Them - the poppies project

Last Friday (22nd June) was the Centenary Service for We Remember Them 1918 - 2018, the University of Chester's commemoration of the 77 staff and students who lost their lives in World War One. The university sewing group's poppies project has been part of this.

77 poppies - one for each of the fallen

Most of the poppies were three-dimensional, but three had been worked in cross stitch. These were sewn flat onto the wreath, and the others attached around them.

The wreath with the cross stitch poppies and the third row attached

Once the wreath was complete, it had to be sewn onto the backing fabric. Because the backing would be laced across a board for the display, it needed to be stretched before the wreath was attached. Otherwise there was a danger it would tear when it was pulled taut. I got round this by pinning the stretched backing fabric across a large notice board, and then sewing on the wreath (with a metal ruler underneath where I was sewing, so that I didn't accidentally stitch the whole thing to the felt cover of the board). It was quite a stretch to reach across at the corners!

Attaching the wreath to the backing

The completed wreath sits inside a beautiful oak cabinet made especially for the project by Rob Nicholas, a very talented cabinet maker from Liverpool. Rob based the cabinet on World War One campaign chests; the wooden boxes soldiers were given to store their belongings. The cabinet can be displayed flat, or raised like a lectern in keeping with its academic surroundings. There is a poppy on each side of the base, and the names of the 77 are carved into the interior. It is a lovely piece; when Rob delivered it we were all thrilled.

The cabinet

Friday's commemoration began with a service in chapel, which had been specially decorated for the occasion. Because the university was originally a teacher training college, many of the 77 were teachers. The display included 77 crosses decorated by children at some of the schools where they had taught, along with more of the poppies.

The display in chapel

As part of We Remember Them, members of the Alumni Association had researched the names on the war memorial, and had been able to trace a number of their descendents. Many of these family members were able to come to the event, including one lady who travelled all the way from Australia! After the service there was a lunch in the dining rooms, and a chance to look round an exhibition of the information found so far.

Part of the exhibition

Posters about individual alumni

The poppies project display

All in all, it was a lovely day. It really brought the 77 to life; no longer just names listed on a  memorial, but individuals with stories and families, and lives cut cruelly short. It was a real priviledge to have been involved.

The wreath inside the cabinet


  1. Well done Elaine for the magnificent work you did in setting the poppies into a display. It was a truly wonderful, moving and humbling day