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Poppies by Stanley Spencer at St Paul's for Battle of the Somme centenary

A special Evensong service commemorates 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme 1 July 2016

The oil painting Poppies by Stanley Spencer is on display in the north transept of the cathedral. It is on loan from Newark Council until 18 November 2016.

The 1938 work features as part of our First World War Commemorations. It specifically marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.  More than  one million British, French, Commonwealth and German soldiers were wounded or killed between 1 July and 18 November 1916. The loan costs and display case have been funded by a generous donor.

A special Evensong service to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme takes place this Friday 1 July 2016 at 5pm. Everyone will be welcome to view Poppies and the First World War altar frontal, and given a copy of Hear My Cry - an illustrated collection of psalms, poetry, prayers and hymns from the Royal British Legion - as they leave.

The book includes personal stories drawn from original research among families whose ancestors fought or died in the War. It also provides dramatic evidence of the part that many of the soldiers' Bibles and diaries played in wartime life.

Everyone is also welcome to a free lunchtime talk - Poppies and Crosses: The War Art of Stanley Spencer - by the Bishop of Chelmsford, 18 July at 1pm.

Book a free place to the War Art of Stanley Spencer talk at St Paul's Cathedral

This talk will look at his work, including Poppies, and explore the spiritual vision of one of England’s greatest artists.

Stephen Cottrell is the Bishop of Chelmsford. He has written widely about spirituality, catechesis and evangelism, including the book Christ in the Wilderness, Reflecting on the paintings by Stanley Spencer

Stanley Spencer was one of the most original British painters of his generation.  After the Slade School of Art, his career was interrupted by the outbreak of war in 1914 and he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps. From July 1915 he worked as a hospital orderly in Beaufort War Hospital in Bristol, looking after the war wounded. The following summer he was sent to Macedonia to join the British forces there.

He served with the field ambulance divisions, but in August 1917 volunteered for the infantry and joined the 7th battalion, the Royal Berkshires, spending several months in the front line before being invalided out of the army.

Head of St Paul's Collections Simon Carter said: 'Spencer drew on his deeply absorbed wartime experiences in a sequence of paintings over the next decade which are considered to be some of the most original and moving of European artistic responses to the First World War.'

The sight of red poppies growing on the scarred and desolate battlefields of northern Europe at the height of the First World War was etched into the memory of many of the men who fought in those bloody theatres of war. The sight inspired Canadian physician John McCrae to write his famous poem ‘In Flanders fields’.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

John McCrae, 1872-1918 from ‘In Flanders fields