ARMISTICE 100: Portraits in the sand pay tribute to our war heroes

An artist's impression of one of the sand portraits.
An artist's impression of one of the sand portraits.

A Northumberland soldier who lost his life in the First World War will be commemorated in a poignant gesture of remembrance.

A huge sand portrait of Private William Jonas, who was killed on the Somme, will be drawn on the beach at Seahouses in time for 11am on Sunday, and washed away as the tide comes in later in the day.

Private William Jonas

Private William Jonas

The work, for Danny Boyle’s Armistice commission Pages of the Sea, is the culmination of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary.

The portrait, designed by sand artists Sand In Your Eye, will be drawn on St Aidan’s beach. The public will be asked to join in by creating silhouettes in the sand, remembering the millions of lives lost or changed forever by the war.

Each of the 32 beaches around the UK and Republic of Ireland taking part in the project will commemorate a different casualty.

William Jonas was born in Blyth in 1890 and played for football clubs Jarrow Croft and Havanna Rovers, before joining London-based Clapton (later Leyton) Orient in 1912, on the recommendation of his childhood friend and Orient forward Richard McFadden.

When professional football was suspended, he joined the 17th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, in April 1916.

But his service was brief.

On July 27, he was trapped with McFadden in a trench under heavy fire while fighting in Delville Wood.

He said goodbye to McFadden, climbed up and out of the trench, and was shot and killed almost immediately.

The portraits commemorate men and women who served or who were casualties of the First World War, most of whom died in active service.

They were chosen by Boyle to represent a range of interesting stories – ordinary people who gave their lives to the war effort covering a range of ranks and regiments.

A new poem, The Wound in Time, written by Carol Ann Duffy will be read by individuals, families and communities as they gather on the beaches on Sunday.

Coun Cath Homer, cabinet member for culture, arts, leisure and tourism at Northumberland County Council, said: “It’s wonderful to see that one of Northumberland’s most iconic beaches is part of this hugely significant event.

“It is set to be a very emotional and thought-provoking day, a time to remember and show our respect for those who fought and were part of the First World War.”

Simon Lee, general manager of National Trust Northumberland coast, said: “We are honoured to be taking part and to help remember William Jonas here.

“St Aidan’s beach is an inspiring and ever changing landscape, boasting an endless stretch of golden sand, grassy sand dunes and rare wildlife.

“It is cherished by the people of Northumberland and visitors from further afield and is a perfect place to pause and reflect at any time of year, but especially so on the centenary of the end of the First World War.”

Jenny Waldman, director of 14-18 NOW, said: “Danny Boyle has created a beautiful, poetic artwork that invites people across the UK to participate in a new nationwide gesture of remembrance on the centenary of Armistice Day.”

“ It is a fitting farewell to all of those who served and were affected by the First World War.

“I would like to thank Danny Boyle, Carol Ann Duffy and all our partners and funders for their help in realising this ambitious project.”