Before Rowley Gregg MC became the Director of Operations of Remembered – The charity behind compelling commemorative movement ‘There But Not There’, he served in Afghanistan as Captain Rowley Gregg of the Light Dragoons. For his service, Rowley was awarded the Military Cross in 2010 for bravery and leadership and a Commanders Commendation for excellence.
Q: As a decorated serving officer of the British Army, what initially inspired you to sign up?
My family have a history of serving in the forces and I was bought up across military camps all over the UK and Europe as my father had a full career in the Army. It was always something I wanted to do – I loved the camaraderie, team ethos and competitive spirit of being a soldier and wanted a challenge. It was a privilege to lead men on operations and an experience I will never forget. Despite having left the military, I am still passionate about the Armed Forces – we have therefore set up the charity Remembered with one simple message: ‘Supporting the veterans of today by remembering the sacrifices of the past.’
Q: Tell us about ‘There But Not There’, where did the idea come from?
There But Not There started in 2016 in a little village in Kent called Penshurst, with a silhouette installation by the artist Martin Barraud. Lord Dannatt became our patron and we launched in the UK in February this year. The idea was to take the names off the memorial wall and put them back into the spaces they left behind and is the motif we’ve followed since then, trying to take names off the Rolls of Honour around the country and put them back into their communities’ consciousness with our silhouettes and Tommy figures.
Q: Why did you choose the Tommy Silhouette as the symbol for ‘There But Not There’?
The There But Not There Tommy logo was partly inspired by a photo taken by Horace Nichols, official Home Office photographer of the Western Front, whose eldest son died during the First World War. This photograph shows a soldier looking out into the distance. Adapting this image into the logo, you now see created an instantly recognisable image, whether as our logo, our table top Tommies or our lifesize statues. The idea of an outline embodies the idea of There But Not There, present as if out of the corner of your eye, a fleeting image of someone who would have once stood in that exact spot. We hope it will cause to people to think and reflect on the sacrifices made in the First World War and subsequent conflicts.
Q: Where do young people fit into the centenary events?
As we move further from the First World War, it is key that we do not forget those who served. We must continue to honour the sacrifices of those who gave their lives, while also ensuring the conflict and its consequences remain in the nation’s consciousness so that history is not repeated. This is why Remembered works with young people, both in supporting them to organise centenary events and through our Education program. I passionately believe that young people should be at the forefront of planning and running remembrance events, channelling their energy, enthusiasm and fresh perspective, and taking ownership of remembrance for a new generation.
Q: There is so much history within the uniformed youth movement – How can our youth groups honour the fallen?
There is no better way to honour those who came before than to directly help those who need support today. Purchasing a Tommy – whether 6ft or 10” – is an act of commemoration, remembering those who lost their lives in WWI, but the profits from the purchase go to six beneficiary charities. The charities we work with support veterans today, to help them recover from their service. We would encourage youth groups to fundraise in their local community in order to purchase a Tommy and raise awareness.
One of our aims is to educate younger generations about the war, as it is not covered in schools as much as the Second World War. We want to ensure that the war and those who fought in it are not forgotten – hundreds of thousands of men were killed, including underage soldiers who signed up as young as 14. Women who worked as nurses and ambulance drivers were also killed. Back home, women were taking over male roles. The war had a huge and often devastating impact on families and society as a whole – and we believe that learning about this is important.
Q: Lastly, if you could have dinner with anyone in history, dead or alive, who would it be?
I would have dinner with Robert Graves, in keeping with our WW1 theme. His poetry (and many others like Siegfried Sassoon’s), has endured so well as a counterweight to the idea of war being a glorious endeavour, the magnitude of what these men went through in the First World War still hits home when you read it. I’ve also just started I,Claudius so we could discuss that!
There But Not There have granted 1000 uniformed youth groups the incredible opportunity to get involved in the national campaign to remember the fallen servicemen and women, commemorating the end of World War I. You can apply here.
To find out more about There But Not There or purchase a Tommy, click here