The work takes its name from Le Bois de L’Enfer (hell), a small copse from which the London Scottish Battalion ventured forth in their first charge of the Battle of Messines, Halloween 1914. The woods served as the Battalion’s HQ and the site of a make-shift dressing station; it was here that the dead and wounded were brought back, whilst the battle raged on.
The London Scottish were the first territorial unit to see action in World War One. Tasked with reinforcing the Allied line on the Messines Ridge, they faced overwhelming odds. Despite being vastly outnumbered and having been issued with faulty magazines which caused their rifles to jam, the men held the line. The losses were heavy, with over half of the Battalion killed or seriously wounded as a result of the battle that day.
The Ypres Salient was fought over almost continuously for the duration of the war, leaving the landscape devastated, towns and villages destroyed and almost half a million dead. One hundred years on, the fields yield their harvests once more, daisies and poppies bloom in the ditches beside the roads; the wounds of war have healed, yet scars and traces remain.
The series of chemigrams shows an altered landscape, which both hides and reveals its past. From the violation of the land and the decomposition of the soldiers’ bodies, comes new life and new possibilities.