Chichester WWI soldier to be commemorated in new sculpture

Maurice Patten
Maurice Patten

A Chichester soldier who perished in the First World War will be remembered during Priory Park 100, the city’s celebration of the centenary of the park being given to the city.

Priory Park 100 also commemorates the centenary of the armistice which brought World War One to a close. And it is this anniversary Chichester sculptor Vincent Gray will have in mind when he joins the Art in Action element of Priory Park 100.

Vincent will be modelling life-size in clay Maurice Patten, who joined the Royal Sussex Regiment in Chichester and died of his wounds at the start of 1916.

Art in Action runs from 10am-4pm at the Guildhall on Saturday, September 22 and Sunday, September 23 when Chichester-area artists and craftspeople will demonstrate their work, some on a WWI theme.

Vincent is being helped by Maurice’s great nephew Simon Ulrich.

“When I was doing my research into the uniform and the stance, I was put in touch with Simon who is an expert and had great uncles in the war. I thought it would be good to base the figure on his great uncle Maurice.

“Maurice was born in Somerset and the family moved to Chichester and he enlisted in Chichester. He is buried in Bethune in northern France. He died at the age of 24. I have got lots of background information from Simon which is very interesting. Simon is also an expert in military attire and is involved in re-enactment. He will be taking part in the drum head service during Priory Park 100 (Sunday, September 30, 11.30am).”

Vincent intends to show Maurice standing in the traditional mourning stance: “Leaning on your weapon held upside down has been the position of mourning centuries.

“It is going to be life-sized. The first thing you do is block out the clay and demarcate it to work out the anatomy and where the clothing will be. People won’t see the finished work. It will be about establishing the shape and the form, but I will be there for the whole two days.”

Vincent is looking forward to it: “I really enjoy having the public there, and to be fair, I am a bit of a showman. But quite apart from the showmanship point of view, I enjoy passing on the technical details. None of the techniques are privy just to me. All of the processes are well-documented, and I enjoy talking about them and sharing them.

“I won’t be able to concentrate! It is all about the show. The idea will be to take the piece back to my studio and then really get into the zone and focus and concentrate. I am not going to start something and then not finish it. The hard work and the concentration will be in the studio later. But the piece won’t be a priority. I have got jobs coming in that are going to pay the bills, but it will be something I can dip into. It could take a year, but it is not the sort of thing I can finance.”

Whether it eventually becomes a bronze will depend on time, on the response to the work and on getting the funding together: “But if there is interest… well, then who knows…”

Simon has been able to provide Vincent with images of Maurice: “When you see his face, the first thing you think is how young he looked. He was fresh-faced. There is a description of his character as well, even the colour of his eyes. One of the reports says that he was jolly… or a word like that. I think you can start to get an idea of his character. Already I am getting a little sense of understanding him.”

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