Resting Place, as those who follow my blog will know, was conceived from a visit to Wimereux War Graves Cemetery in 2011. It was there that I realised the connection to the men buried there and to Clarice’s diary. On this first visit I had just begun the research beyond the archive and had gone in search of a connection today, something tangible that I could say ‘she was there’. The one thing I had not considered was that I would be the one to leave that trace by writing in the Book of Remembrance at the cemetery.
All the other entries spoke of relatives and loved ones who are buried there, but mine was different, I wrote
‘Visiting in memory of Clarice Alberta Spratling, who nursed some of these men’
It felt important to explain why I was there and to record the role she played.
When I launched ‘Resting Place’ last year I wanted to be able to offer the opportunity for visitors to record their thoughts about the work. This traditionally would take the form of a visitors book, but this did not seem right. And so I made the Book of Remembrance, a book that has now travelled with Resting Place and with me at any event at which I talk about Resting Place. It has become a means for people to express their views about the work, about war, to write a memorial to someone lost in conflict , write a poem or to simply record their name.
Book of Remembrance Handmade book and case
The surprising thing is the willingness that people have shown to make a record, many of them very moving, and it is almost as if there is a need to do it, in the same way that I needed to in the cemetery. It is leading me to other thoughts and ideas about how we memorialize and why, what purpose it serves and why it is so important to us to leave a trace, a focus to remember or others to know.
Last week I was invited to speak at the Ramsgate Arts Festival Club about Resting Place, the Book of Remembrance accompanied me and several entries in particular stood out
”The Resting Place – the geology of the land changed beneath the pillowcase”
”My Grandfather Pte William Willats, South Wales Borders, died on 4th October 1918 and is buried in Savy British Cemetery”
”Your grandmother’s diary touched my heart. Representative of many others…”
”there is something very comforting about Resting Place”
Book of Remembrance (detail) Handmade book