Almost 1,500 silhouette statues, handcrafted by a team of volunteers from Oxfordshire, will stand in the fields of Normandy to pay tribute to the British servicemen who were killed 80 years ago on D-Day.

The For Your Tomorrow project has been four years in the making for the Standing With Giants creative team, led by artist Dan Barton whose workshop is in Stanton Harcourt near Witney.

More than 1,000 volunteers and 80 different groups, including teams of Scouts and Guides, have helped with the project.

Oxford Mail: Dan Barton, of Standing With Giants, said making the installation has been a ‘once-in-a-lifetime

Each of the 1,475 silhouettes represents a serviceman who died under British command on June 6 1944.

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The statues have been crafted from more than 25 miles of recycled steel and alloy and decorated with more than £10,500 worth of black paint.

They will travel to Normandy on April 5 in crates decorated with poppies crocheted by members of the Women’s Institute.

“It’s been a once-in-a-lifetime privilege to be able to do this, and seeing everyone come together and work together has been so humbling,” Mr Barton told the PA news agency.

“It was four years ago when I knew I wanted to do something for the 80th anniversary. I decided the best way to show what I wanted to do was to do it by example, and so I started gathering materials to begin making the components.”

The first major Standing With Giants display was set up in 2019, to commemorate Armistice Day, when the team installed 101 silhouettes on a hill near the M40 motorway in Oxfordshire.

Crowds gathered almost as soon as the display was erected and, over the two weeks it was there, thousands of people visited, Mr Barton said.

He added: “The reaction from people was unexpected but just incredible.

Oxford Mail: The D-Day Juniors sing at the workshop in Oxford where more than 200 silhouettes of Second World

“People would just come up to me and hug me and cry, and sob in my arms. They told me the installation had changed their lives.

“We managed to raise £25,000 for the Royal British Legion from that first installation in such a short period.”

Mr Barton approached the Normandy Memorial Trust about a year ago to pitch his idea for an art installation to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

He said the idea had the support of Lord Dannatt, chairman of trustees for the British Normandy Memorial, who was “very engaging and inclusive from the get-go, which was wonderful and exactly matched our ethos”.

Wartime music groups The D-Day Darlings and the D-Day Juniors visited the workshop on Saturday to perform some of their music and to help the team paint and assemble the statues.

“We really encourage our youngsters to embrace their freedom and to cherish their communities.

“It’s so important that they understand and don’t forget the sacrifices that were made by soldiers in the war for the lives we have today,” Mr Barton said.

The team did not receive any funding for the installation and relied on a “shoestring budget” of donations and fundraising efforts to gather the materials and to finance the project, he said.

“It has been difficult financially to make this happen and it’s taken a lot. The team haven’t had a day off in months and we’re out here working all day every day no matter the weather,” Mr Barton said.

Oxford Mail: Women’s Institute members across the country crocheted 22,000 poppies will be displayed around

“Yes, there have been personal sacrifices, but I just wouldn’t change it for the world – why would you not do something like this if you had the opportunity?”

The statues will be taken to Normandy in a four-lorry convoy. The carrying crates and plinths in which they will be stored for the journey are “an art installation in themselves”, Mr Barton said.

The 22,000 poppies crocheted by Women’s Institute members from across the country will be displayed around the base of the crates. Each one represents a serviceman under British command who died in the Battle of Normandy.

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The convoy will travel from Blenheim Palace to Portsmouth, and then on a ferry across to France on April 5.

They will continue their journey to the British Normandy Memorial in Ver-sur-Mer where the installation will be set up. It is expected to take a team of 20 to 30 people about 15 days to complete.

Mr Barton said his group’s installations are “such a simple concept, but something that really does resonate with people”.

“From our previous installations, we’ve witnessed people leave with tears in their eyes – when you see that reaction, how much our displays mean to people, it’s hard to stop,” he said.

The installation will be on display as part of the D-Day 80 commemorations until the end of August.