THE CLAY OF THE TRENCHES

For three years Carrick served in the RGA in a battery of heavy 8" howitzers witnessing at first hand the horrors of the Great War. On one occasion a shell prematurely exploded in the battery. This was not uncommon, American shells being particularly notorious for this defect. Carrick was badly shocked and because of the terrible flu epidemics sweeping the military hospitals he was left at the house of an old Belgian woman who, he remembered, just left him to sleep for days on end. Carrick's sketch book from 1918 contains many sketches of fellow soldiers, war torn landscapes and gun crews in action. Carrick must be fairly unique in having modelled sculpture at the front. He modelled the statuette of an artilleryman lifting a shell, ‘The Gunner’ (following page), from the clay of the trenches. He then found a Belgian artist, Leopold Beun, behind the lines who helped him to cast the figure in plaster. This happily survived to be finally cast in bronze. Initially plaster copies were made and bronzed and one was exhibited at the RSA exhibition in Edinburgh in 1916. Tragedy struck when a young lady bumped into the pedestal and the figure smashed into pieces on the floor. The Academy was relieved to discover that this was not the only copy! Carrick's wife Janet supplied a replacement and it is believed that she never told him of the incident.
In 1918 the bronze statuette was exhibited at the R.S.A., and Carrick was elected A.R.S.A. while he was still in the trenches. Once home he lost little time in re-establishing his Edinburgh yard in Distillery Lane, behind Haymarket Station, and quickly received his first commission to execute a war memorial for Lochawe at the entrance to Saint Conan's Kirk.

Below - Carrick (standing on the left) at the home of Belgian artist Leopold Beun who is standing on the right.

carrick and beun

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