Bahamian veteran Sir Etienne honoured in art project

IN honour of war veterans, a museum in Belgium is showcasing an exhibition of chairs this weekend from all the countries and regions soldiers came from during the First World War.

Among those who will be honoured are The Bahamas and Sir Etienne Dupuch, former Tribune publisher, who served in the First World War as part of The Bahamas' War Contingent serving in the British West India Regiment.

The installation in Belgium was inspired by an earlier exhibit by international artist Val Carman.

A press release issued by In Flanders Fields Museum, which is organising the exhibit, explained the project.

"These past few months, people from around the world were found willing to donate a chair for this project. Many chairs carry unique stories and intentions. In representing the emptiness felt a hundred years ago, these chairs also symbolise the participation of countless people at this unique moment in history.

"The chairs will not return to their country of origin, but will remain in Ieper (Ypres), just like the fallen soldiers. Eventually, they, too, will preserve the unique worldwide memory of this centenary commemoration.

"The empty chairs will be deployed in an intimate installation in the Astrid Park. The chairs will be illuminated by candlelight. The lantern will show the chair's country of origin and the distance it travelled to Ieper (Ypres). The city of Ieper's Parks Department will plant white flowers in the park for the occasion. Lester Simpson will provide a soundscape that will play there for three days."

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A worker unpacks a chair that will be part of a war exhibit in Belgium.

On Friday at 5pm, volunteers will bring the chairs from the museum's courtyard to the Astrid Park in Belgium.

The installation will be on display until Sunday, which is observed as Remembrance Day.

Afterwards, the chairs will become part of the collection of the In Flanders Fields Museum. The chair, now in Belgium to represent The Bahamas, was sent by Sir Etienne's son, Etienne Dupuch, Jr, of Dupuch Publications.

As part of the World War One centenary tomorrow an exhibition opens at the University of The Bahamas created by the Belgian National Institute for Veterans and Victims of War.

The exhibit will run for a month and features 30 panels highlighting different aspects of the war at Flanders Fields in Belgium.

It will also feature information on three Bahamians who served in the British West Indies Regiment and are known to have died and been buried in Flanders Fields. One of those men was Lance Sergeant Charles S Sparkman, 23.

In his book, "A Salute to Friend & Foe", Sir Etienne described the horrors of war, revealing how a fellow soldier's head was blown off mere feet away from him while on parade in Belgium near Passchendaele Ridge. That man was Lance Sergeant Sparkman.

"It was evident that the enemy had sighted us and were trying to pick up the range," he wrote. "As shells started inching nearer and nearer, Sergeant Sparkman ran out to the parade ground and told a Jamaican corporal in charge of the squad to dismiss the parade and let the men take cover.

"If Jesus Christ came down here today and told me to dismiss the parade," the corporal declared, "I wouldn't do it." This blasphemy was hardly out of his mouth when a shell fell right in the middle of the parade and men went down like ten-pins in a bowling alley. When the smoke cleared, Sparkman lay on the ground, his uniform spotless, but his head had been blown off the shoulders by a piece of shrapnel. The Jamaican corporal had disappeared and he didn't turn up for several days. When he did, he was in a state of shock," Sir Etienne wrote.

As part of a series of local events for Remembrance Day, a church service is scheduled on Sunday at Christ Church Cathedral.

Tomorrow's Tribune will also include a special 24-page supplement dedicated to all the men from all classes of society in The Bahamas who answered the call to arms and served in The Great War.