Digital Mosaic of Fallen World War One Private Beaney

A digital mosaic has been made of a fallen British World War One soldier using over 30,000 images. Private James Ernest Beaney who was killed while fighting during the Great War is from London and was born in Battersea on April 16, 1893.

The digital mosaic of the 23-year-old fallen hero was made from photographs taken of about 20,000 people that participated at the BBC’s World War One at Home Live events. Another original 800 portraits from the First World War were taken from The Imperial War Museums. While about 240 images of the Great War were received from public submissions.

The mosaic is available online for public viewing at the “the people’s picture” website and visitors can zoom on it to view the faces of those that participated in the project.

On November 8 and 9 2014, the digital mosaic image and an accompanying film were available at the Imperial War Museum North (IWM North) in Manchester. It is also available at the New Broadcasting House of the BBC offices in London where it has been reconstructed on the outside floor.

Our family is “proud and honoured” Private Beaney’s great niece, Irene Ingles said about the project and the fact his relative was selected. According to her, it feels like having back a long lost relative that you never knew.

Speaking about the selection process, the project’s artist who is 43-year-old Helen Marshall said before choosing Private Beaney’s image for the project, she went through several images of World War One fallen heroes, the BBC News reports.

On why Private Beaney’s image was chosen out of the hundreds she went through, Marshall said it’s because the young officer was looking straight at the camera. And the fact that he also looks like every other average man who could as well exist in this our present time and could easily be any of our friend or relations portrait that was taken just yesterday.

Private Beaney joined The Queen’s Regiment in August 1914 and was sent to France in May 1915 where he served till August 8, 1916 when he was killed, two years after joining the military. Before then, he worked as a plumber.

Beaney’s remains were laid to rest at the Bouzincourt Communal Cemetery Extension with the inscription Maria his mother chose for him that reads, “He bravely answered Duty’s call and died so nobly for us all.”

The project was commissioned on behalf of the BBC by David Holdsworth who is the controller of English Regions. According to him, they were able to accomplish the project because their objective is to place the viewers at the core of what the BBC does.

Holdsworth went further to say the mosaic represents the spirit of World War One at Home and the purpose of the project is to tell captivating, powerful and moving stories about the effect of the Great War in local areas and how it was right on the British doorsteps.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE