It’s taken months of research and many hours of dedicated work to create a unique and poignant piece of art which is set to be the trailblazer for a World War 1 trail in Bury St Edmunds.
The event is being organised by the My WiSH Charity, which is aiming to raise £500,000 for its Every Heart Matters appeal for a new cardiac unit at the West Suffolk Hospital, and Our Bury St Edmunds, the business improvement district (BID) in the town.
And on Wednesday, May 9, a metal bicycle sculpture, depicting the Suffolk Cycling Battalion and created by artist Trudi Edmunds, will be revealed as a prelude to the trail.
And the work has particular significance for her as her great, great uncle Edward Edmunds was a member of the battalion and served in the Great War which claimed his life when he was just 20 years old.
She said: “For inspiration I began researching the Great War firstly by speaking to my father (Vic) who lent me books and even a newspaper clipping regarding one of our Suffolk relation’s involvement in World War 1.”
She discovered that her relative served in the 9th Battalion Suffolk Regiment and went to France with them on August 31, 1915. At some point he was transferred to the 11th Battalion the Essex Regiment and was with them when he won the Military Medal, an award presented for bravery in battle.
Later, while fighting in France he was injured at the Battle of the Somme and was repatriated to the Edinburgh War Hospital where he was treated for gas poisoning and burns and he had £3 and 19 shillings in his pocket which was sent to his mother Eliza. He died in the hospital on October 15, 1981, a month short of the end of the conflict and his body was returned to his home in Eastbridge, near Leiston.
His grave is situated in his home village and Trudi, who runs her decorative arts business and art classes from her home in The Klondyke, in Bury St Edmunds, has also involved some of her young students in her sculpture who have made all of the metal poppies which spring out of the work.
There’s also a badge of the Suffolk Cyclist Battalion which will be positioned on the handlebars of the cycle which had the steel donated by AJN Steelstocks, in Kentford, and welded by blacksmith John McCaughan, from Timworth.
Trudi paid thanks to the steel firm’s Ahren-Paul Main.
She said: He was brilliant in helping me choose the right steel for the job and organised the steel to be given to me at no cost, he also made the seat of the cycle.
“And my brother Tim helped with the making of the cross (the base) by cutting into the wood to make the half housing joint.”
It will be positioned close to the Angel Hill entrance to the Abbey Gardens but prior to that will be on display at the Chelmer Fine Art gallery, in The Traverse, from May 9 to June 8, and then the Gallery Highwaymans, in Risby, from June 8 to July 8.
“It is such an honour, it will delight my father and all of my family and I’m absolutely thrilled and delighted to be the trailblazer,” said Trudi.
Much of the research to her sculpture was carried out at the Suffolk Regiment Museum in Out Risbygate, and Gwyn Thomas, from the museum, said: “It was a bit like a jigsaw piecing all the elements together to find out information about her great great uncle but we got the story together and Trudi was very happy with what I was able to find and she had family study about him which confirmed what I had found so she was able to piece together what he had done in the war.
“And when it was put to us that we could be starting the trail I was all for it.”
The West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust is investing £5.2m in developing a state of the art cardiac suite that will provide quicker access to more treatments, but the £500,000 My WiSH Charity is hoping to raise will lead to the whole unit, which is currently fragmented on different floors, being brought together in one purpose-built centre.
The World War 1 trail will feature 18 pieces, commissioned by local artists and sculptors, dotted in prime town centre sites and will be on show from July 4, through to Armistice Day, on November 11. At the culmination of the trail an auction will take place to sell off all of the pieces to go to the Every Heart Matters appeal.
Treatt, the leading beverage ingredient solutions manufacturer based in Bury St Edmunds, will be the main sponsor for the trail, and Daemmon Reeve, group CEO, said: “It’s fantastic to be able to support this ambitious and exciting project which remembers the bravery of those who fought in World War One and is also helping to raise the £500,000 needed to fund the brand new cardiac centre at the hospital.”
If you want to support the Every Heart Matters appeal go to the websitewww.mywishcharity.co.uk and if you would like to donate to the appeal you can do so by going to: Justgiving.com/ehma or text EHMA17 £10 to 70070.