Serried Ranks of Wool War 1 Soldiers Line up In Roubaix After 10,000 Hour Route March

Serried ranks comprising 780 Wool War 1 soldiers have gone on display at Roubaix’s La Piscine Museum in northern France, following a laborious 10,000-hour route march.

Knitted miniature figure of a WW1 soldier on display at Musée La Piscine in Roubaix  northern France (Credit flickr Chob59)

Knitted miniature figure of WWI soldiers on display at Musée La Piscine in Roubaix northern France (Credit flickr Chob59)

An army of 500 volunteers from around the world (among them France and other countries in Europe, Canada, Senegal, Ghana, Australia and New Zealand) participated in a knitting marathon representing 10,000 hours of work, to create this woollen army which is on display at the museum until 12 April 2015.

The 780 miniature knitted figures commemorate soldiers killed in the area in World War 1 and is the latest contribution to  commemorations of the centenary of the start of the Great War hosted by France to pay homage to those from all the nations of the world, who were injured or killed in the “war to end all wars”.

The army of 500 volunteers were inspired and coordinated by Delit Maille (the pseudonym of Anna, a French writer turned artist from Lesquin) who told Clement Landouzy of Croix du Nord newspaper: “I was writing for a long time without getting anything published, and I really like is to tell stories. By sheer chance I was presented with this project and got it into my head that I could also tell stories by knitting… its a medium like any other after all. I am absolutely not a knitting aficionada but what I did discover at the outset was that wool is a material that allows one to do a range of different things”.

The amateur video clip below shows the Wool War Brigade trudging across the floor of the museum in this temporary exhibition.

Anna told the paper: “The conflict was a World War so the project had to be global as well. Indeed without the huge and generous response to an appeal for knitters ‘this column of men going to the slaughter’ would never have been possible”.

The Museum where she had held previous exhibitions approached her with the idea which she almost turned down.

“Initially I did not want to do it. I did not see how I could deal with a subject like the War when all my work to date has been satirical, cynical. So I knitted a soldier to see. And then I went on a long tour around the military cemeteries in the Somme. Something I had never done before.

“For me, the War had always been something very far away. But there, I really came face to face with the nature of this conflict: rows and rows of graves extending far out of sight; and the age of the soldiers — 15 to 35 years — it was something I found hard to comprehend. But it was the tour experience that persuaded me.

“There, I said , you can do something different, you can tell a story about the War differently, tell the story of this lost generation with something small that reflects the age of all those young soldiers who died and yet play on the massed effect of the miniature figures”.

The serried ranks in miniature represent the youth of those who died. (Credit flickr Chob59)

The serried ranks in miniature represent the youth of those who died.
(Credit flickr Chob59)

“And that is how it came about. But achieving this column of death would have been impossible alone. I sent out an appeal for help on my blog and the response was immediate.

“I asked people of all social classes, all religions to join me , in a way that represented all those men in the trenches. For this art project is inseparable from the human project.

“I thought, well if I get 30 responses that would be good. As it was there was a virtual tidal wave: in three days, I had 500 volunteers and had to restrict the number of offers. They all shared stories, memories … and finally, it all came together as we knitted our soldiers.

“The exhibition captures the emotion of the work done by these people, who are not knitting professionals, and who all gave much more to the project than just their knitting … “

Gallery of photos below from the artist’s Flickr collection. Credit: flickr Chob59

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Museum Details:

La Piscine, 23 rue de l’Espérance, Roubaix. Entrance 7 – 10 euros. Free for those under 18. Opening times: Tuesday to Thursday 11 to 18h; Friday 11h to 20h; Saturday and Sunday 13h to 18h. Web:

The exhibition is part of an extensive programme of events that form France’s Great War cycle running through to 2018.

See these reports in French News Online’s special section dedicated to coverage of the commemorations of 100 years since the start of World War l and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in World War ll.


Story: Ken Pottinger


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