Martin had always been inspired by the journey of fifty local men, their names engraved in a memorial at his parish church. The journey of those fifty young men took them from rural Kent through the slaughter of World War One, returning only in spirit to the walls of St John the Baptist church in Penshurst.
In the summer of 2016 Martin proposed to the Reverend Tom Holme, vicar of the church, a thought-provoking installation of commemoration – fifty clear Perspex figures sitting amongst the pews. The outline form of the figures was derived from several contemporary photographs of World War One seated soldiers in uniform. The vicar agreed that the installation should go ahead, and Martin commissioned and funded the figures.
He called it ‘There But Not There’
There But Not There. The Seated Tommies.
When the installation was unveiled it resonated strongly in the local community, and well beyond. The extensive comments in the church’s visitor book attests to the extraordinary popularity of the original work.
With the Patronage of Lord Dannatt, ex-Head of the British Army and the incredible work of so many, the installation was taken to the nation in 2018 for the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.
Through the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury and a £2 million grant from the Armed Forces Covenant Trust Fund, Seated Tommies were eventually installed in over 4,000 communities. The emotional connection and engagement of people of all ages with the installation was the true testament to the original intent of the work – to commemorate, educate and heal.