Monday, 30 April 2018

Origami doves

I attend an Art History group run by our local U3A. Last month, we looked at examples of Japanese Art and some in the class brought along examples from their own collections. We met again last Monday and our leader, Val, didn’t make the usual prior announcement of the art we would be discussing: we were just told that there would be visitors. All very intriguing.

On turning up at the Quaker Meeting Place in Berkhamsted, where we hold our meetings, I was surprised to find two tables, with chairs arranged around them, and the visitors all wearing T-shirts with “Dacorum Heritage Trust” written on the front. They were to lead us through a session making origami doves, so there was a connection to our previous subject. We were given paper sheets that had been cut to shape and which had lines drawn on them to show where we should make folds. I quickly completed two doves and handed them in. 

The doves from our group will be added to many others to form an installation in an empty building in Hemel Hempstead [1]. Each dove (see below for an image from the Dacorum Heritage Trust) will represent a soldier who died in the First World War and we could select his name from the thousands available. I chose at random and was given the names of Private Albert Harrowell and Lance Corporal Frank Harrowell, two brothers who were brought up in a cottage in the centre of Berkhamsted. After visiting the road where it was located, I’m fairly sure that this cottage no longer exists.

Albert operated a Lewis gun and was injured during an attack at Ypres on 31st July 1917, during which he was recorded as missing. He was married to Florence and was aged 31 when he died, his grave being at Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial [2]. Frank was also a machine gunner and he was killed at Loos in France on 5th May 1918, aged 34. He was married to Ada Jane and, Frank being the elder brother, the couple lived in the cottage where Frank and Albert grew up. Frank’s grave is at the Loos Memorial [3], 43 km from Ypres. I don’t know more about the family and I can only imagine the grief suffered by the wives of the two men and the loss felt by William and Lizzie, their parents. I wonder how close they were as brothers? What were their occupations?

The brothers are commemorated on the War Memorial at Berkhamsted (see above) and, if it hadn’t been for the Dacorum Heritage Trust initiative, they would just have been names to me among many others. Now I feel differently and, on Remembrance Sunday, I will remember “my” Albert and Frank. I look forward to seeing the installation of all the origami doves. It is a little like the display of poppies that made such an impression at the Tower of London and I’m sure it will have a similar impact on the residents of Dacorum.

Doves are symbols of peace and help us to reflect on the horrors of war and each of us who made an origami dove now has a soldier (or soldiers) who is special to them. It is a lovely, and involving, thing to do and I realise once again how lucky I have been in not having to go through the horrors of war that the Harrowell family suffered a hundred years ago.

Many thanks to the Dacorum Heritage trust for letting me be a part of this marvellous initiative.

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