Today the last of the poppies have been removed from the moat at the Tower of London. The awe-inspiring display moved five million people to come and pay tribute to the 888,246 British and Colonial soldiers who lost their lives fighting for Britain during World War One.
This year, we had the privilege, in a small way, to help pay tribute to some of the soldiers who gave their lives in the recent conflicts in Iran and Afghanistan.
It all began a few months ago when Karen Faulkner-Dunkley called: “I’m lending some of my jewellery to a very lovely lady for a charity calendar photo-shoot and they’re looking for someone to do the design for free – are you interested?”
My initial thought was, “No, not really”, but I was too polite to say that, so I went with a cagey, “Sounds interesting – what’s the story?”
It transpired that this was a ‘Calendar Girls’ style project, and that the ‘Calendar Girls’ were all members of the Bereaved Families Support Group (BFSG) who had lost a loved one in Military Service. I was glad I’d kept my initial thoughts to myself, and immediately agreed to meet with Sally Veck, who helped found the BFSG in 2008 after her daughter Eleanor was killed in Basra aged only 19.
Sally came to the studio with her Mum, Mary, and they lit the place up. It was hard to believe that this bubbly pair had suffered such a crippling loss, but as we started going though the brief it became clear that the sadness is never far below the surface.
Alongside the (tastefully posed!) nude shots we suggested that each month of the calendar should feature a small piece about the life of their fallen family members, and as we looked through photos of their loved ones (some of them barely adults) everyone was choked up and we began to get a sense of the bravery it takes to live with that kind of loss.
During the design and production of the calendar we were missing a few details and had to do some research ourselves. I will be forever grateful that I was alone in the studio when I found this article about Rifleman Cyrus Thatcher. It is as inspiring as it is moving, but I’m warning you now – you will cry.
When the calendar was finished, Sally and her mother Mary were so pleased they came to thank us personally and even brought champagne!
“Everyone loves the calendar – it looks so bright and cheerful, even though it represents our fallen”.