New outdoor remembrance display at Hampton Court Palace explores little-known story of visiting Indian soldiers as Standing with Giants installation comes to Palace gardens

3 - 28 November 2021

3 - 28 November 2021

From 3 to 28 November, Hampton Court Palace’s East Front gardens will welcome Standing with Giants, a thought-provoking art installation created to commemorate and remember those who lost their lives in both World Wars and present-day conflicts.

The installation, created by Oxfordshire artist Dan Barton and a dedicated group of volunteers – and created from donated and recycled building materials - features 100 near-life-size soldier silhouettes, displayed alongside 75 screen-printed poppy wreaths, creating a poignant display. To reflect the palace’s own wartime story, they will be joined by an additional 25 specially commissioned silhouettes representing the Indian soldiers who took up residence on the Hampton Court estate for the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, and again for the First World War Victory Parade in London.

For the 1919 Peace Celebrations almost 1800 Indian Army officers, soldiers, as well as civilian workers,  set sail from India to England to take part in a special parade through central London. A change of plan with the signing of the delayed Peace Treaty, together with an outbreak of influenza on voyage would have made them too late, but King George V called for a second Victory March for the soldiers on 2 August.  At Hampton Court Palace a camp had been specially created to house them during their stay in Britain, following instructions from the King that ‘everything possible should be done for the comfort of the men.’ Accommodations were made to meet the cultural and religious requirements of the men, and – recognising that this was the first visit to England for the vast majority of those in attendance - the soldiers were entertained with excursions to attractions in London and across the country, including trips to the Tower of London and a Chelsea football match. The camp was one of the largest gatherings of people from India and South East Asia ever assembled in Britain at the time, but to date has been largely overlooked by historians.  

To bring a new dimension to the installation, Historic Royal Palaces – the independent charity which cares for Hampton Court Palace – will be also be exploring the role played in the First World War by some of the palace’s former residents, from Front Line nurses to campaigners for improved care for injured veterans, with a specially created trail map.

Having reopened to the public just before the outbreak of war – after being closed for a year for fear of attacks by members of the Suffragette movement - Hampton Court remained a popular attraction between 1914 and 1918, with up to 12,000 visitors on busy weekends. Behind the scenes, however, many of the palace’s staff and residents had signed up to help with the war effort, with 16 gardeners enlisting into local regiments and 21 palace residents becoming nurses. The Indian princess, Sophia Duleep Singh – who was granted a home on the estate by her godmother Queen Victoria – combined her role as a nurse in a local hospital with that of Chairwoman of the YMCA War Relief Fund, raising money for the welfare of Indian troops on active service, while neighbour Lady Dorothy Fielding’s life-saving work with the Munroe Ambulance Corps saw her become the first woman in Britain to be awarded a military medal.

Perhaps the most poignant contribution the palace made was the wood used to make a coffin for the Unknown Solider, which was supplied from an oak tree felled in Hampton Court’s Home Park.

Sebastian Edwards, Deputy Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, said: While many may be familiar with the wartime account of Hampton Court Palace - which like so many other great houses saw its staff enlist to fight, and its flowerbeds turned into to vegetable plots– there is a much less well-known story which we are telling for the first time with the help of Standing with Giants;  of the Indian Army Camp at the Palace. We hope that visitors to the display will enjoy discovering all about this unique moment in Hampton Court’s history, when the people of England, India and South East Asia were unexpectedly brought together to share the joy and relief of peace after the awful global conflict of the First World War.’

Dan Barton, founder of Standing with Giants, said: ‘We are so privileged to be displaying our Remembrance installation at Hampton Court Palace, especially with the installation also supporting the story of the Indian soldiers who took up residence on the Hampton Court Estate.  We have been overwhelmed by the amazing reactions from visitors to our installations, the heartfelt stories, the obvious need to grieve, and just the enormous positive energy towards the project. This display continues our work to help raise awareness and donations to support our veterans and the amazing work being carried out by the Royal British Legion.’

Notes to Editors

For further information and images please contact Adam Budhram in the Historic Royal Palaces Press Office via [email protected] 

Included in palace admission. Tickets: Adult £25.30 / Concession £20.20 / Child £12.60. Free for Historic Royal Palaces members.

Historic Royal Palaces is a team of people who love and look after six of the most wonderful palaces in the world. We create space for spirits to stir and be stirred. We want everyone to feel welcome and accepted. We tell stories about the monarchs you know and the lives you don’t. We let people explore and we set minds racing. We are a charity and your support gives the palaces a future, for everyone.  Registered charity number 1068852. For more information visit www.hrp.org.uk

Standing with Giants is a not-for-profit organisation, set up in 2019 by Oxfordshire Community Artist, Dan Barton, and a group of local volunteers. They create large scale art installations using recycled building materials and provide meaningful spaces for people to visit and reflect. Their ethos is to value life, to understand, appreciate, and celebrate our freedom, and to remember and pay tribute to those who have fallen so we can live the lives we have today.