The Battle of the Somme and the war in Afghanistan were fought almost 100 years apart and yet they are connected by two Bushmills men.
Lance Corporal Chris McKendry, part of a nine man team of specialist engineers from The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, is currently serving in Kabul in support of Charlie Company (C Coy) from 2nd Battalion the Rifles (2 Rifles).
Born and bred in Bushmills, Chris and his family have close connections with President of the Robert Quigg VC Commemoration Society, Robert Thompson - and now Chris is selling pieces of ‘trench art’ to raise funds for the Society.
Rifleman Robert Quigg from Bushmills was awarded the Victoria Cross for his “Most Conspicuous Bravery” at the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916.
The society are aiming to erect a sculpture of a man who has become a legend in North Antrim and across the world.
It is expected that almost £50,000 will be required to complete the bronze statue and the society are aiming to unveil the sculpture on the centenary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 2016.
Chris, a former goalkeeper with Linfield before he joined the army four years ago, and his colleague Corporal James Cooper decided to use their spare time to help this cause which is close to their hearts by creating some impressive pieces of ‘trench art’.
“We initially started off collecting spent ammo cases and manufacturing cufflinks and bottle openers,” explained Chris. “To be honest when we started doing this we were hopeful but had low expectations, however, once the word spread and more and more people brought bits and pieces to us, the greater the demand became for it.
“We then decided to expand on their range of gifts we were making by attaching spent ammo cases onto headphones and re-wiring ear pieces to accommodate the end caps to the spent cases. Next thing we were receiving personal requests to create a variety of sentimental gifts for officers and soldiers to send to loved ones back home.”
Chris has been in Afghan, his first tour since joining the army, for seven months and the trench art has been a welcome distraction for him during this time.
“On tour you work long hours anyway but I was so keen to complete some of the crafts that I would stay in my workshop until after midnight on many occasions. Not only did the trench art allow me to do my bit for this very worthy cause but it also helped pass the time quicker until I return to my wife Kelly Ann and my newborn daughter Georgie who is just eight weeks old. It’s tough being away with my daughter being born such a short time ago but with our tour ending soon I’m looking forward to returning home to the nappies and night feeds.”