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Student pays emotional art tribute to family at WW1 memorial

A STUDENT journeyed to Belgium and paid tribute to fallen soldiers with a stunning piece of artwork inspired by a college project.

Rhiannon Ridding, from Sychdyn, visited the Menin Gate Memorial in Flanders after creating a wreath using old photographs of family members who died in the First World War.

The Coleg Cambria student’s incredible design featured green ribbon, red poppies and printed sheets of pictures and letters carved into the shape of poppies using a laser cutter.

Joined by her taid, Eifion, the emotional trip coincided with centenary celebrations to mark the end of the four-year battle – known as The Great War – and was an experience the 18 year-old will never forget.

“We were given the theme of war and battle for a project, and as the country was marking 100 years since the end of the First World War I thought it made sense to pay tribute in my own way,” said Rhiannon, currently studying A Levels in Product Design, Art and Business at the college’s Deeside Sixth Form Centre.

“I started to make the wreath and after a conversation with my taid – who founded the Flintshire War Memorials website – we decided it would be amazing to actually go out to Flanders and lay the wreath at Menin Gate.”

She added: “It was an incredibly emotional day for both of us, but a special way to say thank you to the many people who lost their lives in the war, including our own family members.

“It didn’t really hit us until we arrived and laid the wreath; I am so glad I had the opportunity to do that and to leave a lasting reminder that represents both my family and Wales.”

Rhiannon was praised by Alex Thomas, Head of Deeside Sixth Form Centre, who agrees the wreath is a fitting tribute to the fallen.

“As a piece of art work what Rhiannon produced was stunning and creative, but the story behind it is truly inspiring,” said Mr Thomas.

“We are all very proud of her for taking the theme of a project and truly capturing the spirit of commemoration which took place the world over.

“At Cambria we try and inspire our students to be bold and imaginative, and Rhiannon certainly achieved that with this very special memorial.”

The Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, often referred to simply as the Menin Gate, bears the names of more than 54,000 soldiers who died before August 16 1917 and have no known grave.

Between October 1914 and September 1918 hundreds of thousands of servicemen of the British Empire marched through the town of Ypres’s Menin Gate on their way to the battlefields.

The memorial now stands as a reminder of those who died who have no known grave and is one of the most well-known war memorials in the world.

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