International Peace Day is recognized annually on September 21. To celebrate the event in 2013, a group of around 500 artists and volunteers covered the coastline of Normandy beach with 9,000 silhouettes in a project entitled ‘The Fallen,’ a tribute to the civilians, German forces and Allies who lost their lives during the Operation Neptune landing on June 6, 1944.
The brainchild of two British artists, Jamie Wardley, 33, and Andy Moss, 50, the pair traveled to Arromanches beach, Normandy, along with volunteers to individually etch each of bodies into the sand. The shape of a person was created by putting down a stencil and raking the surface to create a figure, each one unique. The shapes were then left to be washed back in by the tide, a process that took roughly two-and-a-half hours.
“The Fallen is a sobering reminder of what happens when peace is not present,” Wardley said in an interview at the time. “The idea is to create a visual representation of what is otherwise unimaginable, the thousands of human lives lost during the hours of the tide during the Second World War Normandy landings. People understand that so many lives were lost that day but it’s incredibly difficult to picture that number.”
Many of the volunteers that helped to complete the project had a vested interest in seeing it through, with veterans and families, including some who have lost loved ones in recent conflicts getting involved in the project. “We turned up to the beach with a team of 60 people but by the end we had over 500 people taking part,” Wardley said afterward. “There were people from all over the world who had heard about the event and traveled all the way to France to take part.”
“Some people told us that they had lost family in the Second World War and others said they had lost loved ones in Afghanistan and wanted to pay a tribute to them.” The project was completed at around 7:30pm and then all involved sat and waited for the tide to come in. “The last silhouette was washed away at about 10pm and it was incredibly moving,” Wardley added.