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War memorial to form part of church display

06:45 03 July 2014

St Marys Church in Ditchingham which houses a unique First World War memorial sculpted by Francis Derwent Wood.

Picture: James Bass

St Marys Church in Ditchingham which houses a unique First World War memorial sculpted by Francis Derwent Wood. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2014

A war memorial crafted by a leading British sculptor will form the centrepiece of a south Norfolk open church event.

St Marys Church in Ditchingham which houses a unique First World War memorial sculpted by Francis Derwent Wood.

Picture: James BassSt Marys Church in Ditchingham which houses a unique First World War memorial sculpted by Francis Derwent Wood. Picture: James Bass

A bronze effigy of a tall English soldier being carried to burial was produced by Sir Francis Derwent Wood after The Great War ended and was placed in St Mary’s Church in Ditchingham, near Bungay.

The monument, which has been a big attraction in the village for more than 90 years, is just one of a handful that Mr Derwent Wood made and will feature in a week-long special display at the church at the end of the month.

The sculpture, which is attached to marble, portrays a soldier lying with his hands half closed by his sides, with his coat open and his collar turned up. His face depicts a manner of calm and above him, inscribed in the marble, are the names of some of the men and women from the village who went to war.

The piece was paid for by William Carr, of Ditchingham Hall, Sir Henry Rider Haggard and Dr J.F. Bright, as well as relatives of the fallen. It was unveiled on September 27, 1920.

Sir Francis Derwent Wood was too old to enlist in the army during the First World War, so he volunteered in the hospital wards.

When he witnessed the horrific injuries sustained by the troops, it spurred him on to open the Masks for Facial Disfigurement Department at the Third London General Hospital, in Wandsworth. After the war ended he was commissioned to produce a series of sculptures to be placed around the country commemorating our men at war, which includes the monument in St Mary’s Church.

Liz Button who is on the church council said: “People come specifically to see it.

“We are researching the names on it and several of the families still seem to be about.

“I would love to know how they came into contact with Sir Francis. It may be that he wasn’t as well known then as he is now. We always do something for open churches and this year we decided to have a First World War theme. We have got something that most churches haven’t, so we thought we would celebrate that.”

During open churches week, from July 31 to August 3, there will also be a chance to look at photographs from the Great War. Then, on August 4, a service of reflection and remembrance will take place to mark 100 years since the start of the war.

Do you have any unusual memorials to mark The Great War? Email louisa.lay@archant.co.uk

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