Poignant beach portrait in Blackpool to honour those who died in First World War

Soldiers on the beach at Blackpool
Soldiers on the beach at Blackpool

On a windswept, rain-lashed Blackpool beach, the portrait of just one of the hundreds of thousands of men who left these shores to fight in the First World War never to return home emerged from the sand.

Working from the early hours at low tide, artists and locals used stencils and rakes as the face of young Lance Corporal John Edward Arkwright emerged in the sand beneath their feet.

The sand etchings in Blackpool honoured the fallen soldiers of the First World War

The sand etchings in Blackpool honoured the fallen soldiers of the First World War

The project, for the centenary of Armistice Day, was inspired by film maker Danny Boyle as an informal, nationwide gesture of remembrance.

On beaches from Cornwall to the Shetland Isles, and Pembrokeshire to Donegal, portraits of the fallen were sculpted in the sand, to say thank you for their sacrifice before a collective goodbye as the sea comes in and washes away their images forever.

A portrait of war poet Wilfred Owen was sculpted in the sand during the Pages of the Sea commemorative event at Folkestone.

As morning broke through the gloom in Blackpool, members of the public gathered to lend a hand and pay their personal respects.

A single white rose was placed on the sand portrait of L/Cpl Arkwright, born in 1890 during Queen Victoria's reign in Lancaster - just one of the thousands of patriotic volunteers eager to serve his country.

He landed in France with the 1st Battalion, King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment on August 23, 1914,

Three days later he was dead, killed in action during the battle of Le Cateau.

The former police officer with the Lancashire Constabulary was aged 23 and left a wife, Isabella.

Rebecca Snowden was on the beach with her three teenage children and her mother to pay their own respects.

Mrs Snowden, from Poulton, said: "It's important to remember, we've brought the children as well. It needs to be remembered.

"The fact that they are drawing these portraits on the sand, I just think is perfect. We won't forget."

Her mother Shelagh Snowden, added: "It's something the children will really remember as they get older. It is to honour them because it was the most horrific experience for them.

"The stories from the soldiers home, looking forward to mum's apple pie and seeing so-and-so, so personal and they never made it. It could be us couldn't it?"

Above the sand portraits on the promenade, preparations were being made for a service of remembrance at Blackpool War Memorial.

Abigail Wrigley, with her daughter, Caroline, aged nine, brought faded family photos to the beach to remember her own relatives who fought, and died, serving the country.

Mrs Wrigley, from Bolton-le-Sands, held pictures of her great grandfather William John McLean, from Milford Haven, mentioned in dispatches in the First World War, who died at sea in 1940 during the Second World War.

She also held pictures of his two sons, her great uncles, Billy and Harry McLean, who survived the 1939-45 conflict.

Mrs Wrigley said: "There are a few of our family that have been in the services and this is what we are bringing today to think of them.

"They felt they had to serve their country and it meant that we have all the opportunities and liberties we do have today.

"I heard on the radio someone saying it's about glorifying the dead, it's not, it really isn't. It's about remembering gratefully those who gave their lives so that we could have what we have.

"It's really poignant. These are the people who didn't come home. These are the people whose lives stopped and they are the reason why we are where we are.

"It's sad, they are not with us but we are very, very grateful that they did what they did and I feel like it's a matter of honour to respect them."