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Calling the Nation to say Thank You

6 August 2018

The Royal British Legion has launched a mass movement to say ‘Thank You’ to all who served, sacrificed, and changed our world during the First World War. With 100 days to go until 11 November, the charity is calling on mass involvement from the public to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.

All communities are being encouraged to join the movement by expressing their thanks this year, with 45 high profile organisations already supporting the movement. Partners include English National Ballet, Diwali in the Square, Highclere Castle, GCHQ, Cadbury, Sainsbury's, M&S, the Coventry Building Society, the RFU and many others. Over 250 community events have been organised so far to say a mass ‘Thank You’ to those who put Britain on the path to becoming what it is today.

To support the launch, ‘Thank You’ partner Ancestry UK will be offering free access to military records from 6-9 August, to allow the public to research their own family history, while their Medal collection will be free to access from 6 August to the end of the year. This collection is the most complete listing of people who fought in the British Army in WW1.

‘Thank You’ will honour not only the 1.1 million British and Commonwealth Armed Forces who lost their lives in the First World War, but also those who played their part on the home front, and those who returned to build a better life for the benefit of generations to come.

To launch the movement, the Legion has created a giant art installation of 8ft high illustrated letters, which will be on London’s South Bank on 3-4 August before touring to other cities in the UK later this month. The public will be invited to write their own personal messages of thanks directly onto the installation.

The letters showcase a unique design by acclaimed artist, Sarah Arnett, which brings the war’s legacies to life. From the “Munitionettes” who served in weapons factories to Indian infantrymen who served on the Western Front, from schoolgirls farming the fields to renowned war artists such as Paul Nash, a collage of images honours the diverse contribution of the First World War generation.

“It’s been an honour to work on such a meaningful project during the Centenary year. Having recently researched my own family history during the war, I’m amazed by how much of the world around me is still so connected to that time. It was deeply moving to think about what each member of that generation went through as I worked on the design. It’s absolutely fitting that we should say ‘Thank You’ and remember their legacies.”Sarah Arnett

The regional tour of the installation will encompass the following locations:

13 August – PLYMOUTH
15 August – BIRMINGHAM
17 August – DUNDEE 
20 August – BELFAST
22 August – LIVERPOOL
24 August – SWANSEA

Sir Michael Morpurgo, a ‘Thank You’ Ambassador, will this year release Poppy Field, a new book looking at the war’s resonance through history. Sir Michael said: “The First World War is, in a strange sort of way, the most iconic of all wars. From the depths of its horror, it brought out an extraordinary collective effort and contributed to some of the most meaningful cultural shifts in human history.

“To the farmers who gave up their horses to the war effort; to the women who kept our home fires burning; to the Sassoons and the Macraes whose work has shaped our understanding of conflict; we should indeed say ‘Thank You’.”

Charles Byrne, Director General of The Royal British Legion, said:

“We all have a connection to the First World War, for me it is Private Ross Ryan, my grandfather, and we all have a reason to say ‘Thank You’ to this special generation.

“Whether your personal ‘Thank You’ is an event dedicated to those who made a difference in your community, a visit to a place of significance, or a simple tweet, there’s no limit to the ways people can take part. We are making a plea to every single person across the UK to get involved and take a moment in this very significant year to say ‘Thank You’.”

LEGACIES BORN OUT OF WW1

Legacies born out of the First World War include:

·         The Royal British Legion, founded in 1921 by veterans of the conflict and their families, and dedicated then as now to the welfare, memory and interests of the Armed Forces, veterans, and their families.

·         The greater role of women in the workforce and public life which contributed to the first women gaining the right to vote in 1918.

·         Men without property, many of whom had fought in the war, were also given the right to vote in the same year.

·         Advancements in medicine such as blood banks, x-rays and reconstructive surgery.

·         Development of everyday products such as the wrist watch, the trench coat, or the humble teabag.

·         Inspiration for arts which gave us war poets like Owen and Sassoon, compositions by Elgar and Vaughan Williams, and the imagery of Nash and Sargent. JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy was also inspired by his service on the Somme.

·         The birth of the poppy as a symbol of sacrifice and of hope – it was the subject of John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields, written following the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915.

For more information and to find out how you can get involved in the ‘Thank You’ movement, visit rbl.org.uk/thankyou.

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