Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Unique Centennial Armistice Commemoration in the U.K.

Portraits of soldiers who died in World War One were etched into the sands of  32 UK beaches last 11 November  and the result was  stunning. The portraits were titled “Pages of the Sea,” an idea that was conceived by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle. 

The beaches from Cornwall to the Shetland Isles commemorated specific individuals that fought in the war. Some are of well-know figures like the war poet, Wilfred Owen, others are of lesser-known local individuals who perished in the war. People gathered together early on Sunday morning to create the images, using a stencil and a rake to create the images.  

“In the first World War, everybody left from the beaches and the harbors because there was no plane transport of any significance then,” Boyle told the BBC. “So this will have been their last sight of home—and for many of them, of course, it was their last sight of home.”

He continued, “I thought, ‘What a wonderful way to reconnect with them.'”

Boyle said the images  were made by volunteers who were given stencils and rakes to shape the larger-than-life portraits.

“We make a temporary portrait which is a reminder of your own and their mortality,” he said. “But it’s also a way that a community can gather in a public space…and we can come here and celebrate, in a way.”

Boyle said standing in the midst of the portraits also gave room for quiet reflection.  At each of the beaches to mood turned somber as the afternoon tides arrived.

“There was a wonderful silence with just the noise of the tide beginning to pour in and cover the portraits,” he said. “It was very, very moving.”

People who experienced the exhibit in person posted photos to Instagram and shared their thoughts, many of them paying tribute to certain soldiers by sharing their names and bits of their stories. 

List of all individuals commemorated can be found HERE.

Compiled from UK News Reports


  1. How moving!!
    Bravo to Danny Boyle

  2. Haven't yet had the opportunity to enjoy this marvelous tribute to its fullest, but as soon as possible I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated the effort that went into putting all this together in memory of all those brave souls who risked and lost their lives on these shores Thanks Danny Boyle and your talented staff for pouring your hearts into this most fitting salute and delivering such an impressive finished product.

  3. What an elegant and moving idea. Brilliant.

  4. I could not help but feel the tide quietly coming in and after sharing their heroic story's, gently returning them to their forever resting place.
    What an experience!
    Elsie Shemin-Roth