IT is particularly noisy in the engineering department at Colchester Institute.

Usually the students would be working on body repairs, or studying electronics.

But for the past 10 months, they have also been working on something very special.

Loud bangs come from hammers colliding with metal, and there are sparks flying in another room as welding torches fire up.

Richard Holland, public services tutor at the college, walks me through the workshop until my path is blocked by a giant halfsphere.

It is made from a series of metal rings the students are welding together, like honeycomb.


The engineering and public services students are turning this sculpture into a memorial to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. A total of 100 metal poppies will be added to the sculpture which will be put up at the college.

Metalsmiths from Colchesterbased 8 Parachute Field Company Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers have been assisting the students.

Mr Holland said: “The college’s charity of the year is the Royal British Legion.

“The original idea was to have something specifically linked to the Remembrance parade, but when we looked at it, it’s use would have been limited.

“So we came up wit the idea of using the sculpture for different national holidays after Remembrance Day. Its ‘world-like’ shape can encompass anything.”


Richard, who is ex-parachute regiment himself, has spent the past nine years teaching public services.

He was keen for the college to do something special to mark the centenary.

He said: “All the metal has been donated from college suppliers and the final product will be galvanised to make it future proof.

“One hundred poppies will be made and sprayed red in the body repair shop.

“At least 60 students have taken part and 50 staff came in on Staff Wellness Day. We have had some students who have been really keen and interested, people just jumped on board.”


Michael Bajo, 18, and James Buckland, 17, are looking forward to seeing the finished product.

Michael said: “This is my second year working on the project, we have been welding and making poppies.

“It has been quite easy and I have embraced the connection with Remembrance Day, it’s a day for respect.

“I’m looking forward to the finished product and I was keen to volunteer.”


Soldiers at Colchester Garrison have been assisting the students.

Corporal Tom Howarth, 44, has been in the Army for 21 years and was deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo.

He said: “It’s great to work with the students on a project like this - they’ve got a range of skills, some are confident and some need a bit of help, but all are keen to learn.

“I’ve shared my skills and talked about my career. A lot of the students think the Army is just about the infantry and weren’t aware of all the different skills and trades there are, so it’s been good to give them a better understanding.”

Lance Corporal Dan Moss, 30, has been in the army for seven years.

He said: “On a normal day at the Garrison I’d be repairing vehicles, and it’s a nice change to use my metalwork skills in a different environment with different people.

“I got my welding and fabrication qualifications on the same kind of course as the students before I joined the Army, so it’s brought back memories of my college days.

“Remembrance is something every soldier can relate to and it’s been good to link up with the students and do something together to mark it.”


The college runs a Building Heroes programme for veterans, and this project is close to home for them.

Building Heroes is a charity, set up in 2013, for the sole purpose of training military veterans in construction trades.

The collaboration between Colchester Institute and Building Heroes, which as a result has produced the Foundation Property Management course, provides skills training to veterans and supports their transition into civilian employment.

Richard Linton and Andrew Mcalpine, Building Heroes students, said: “Poppies are a symbol of all wars so it’s good to be part of and create something that is a symbol of remembrance for those who aren’t with us.

“We are proud to be involved.

Anything that helps to keep the sacrifice in the public eye is important.”


The sculpture will be unveiled at a special ceremony on Wednesday.

All but ten poppies would have been installed for the ceremony, the remaining ten will be added by dignitaries on the day.

When it is time for the poppies to come down, 90 of them will be auctioned off, with the remaining ten being placed in special frames.

Some of the framed poppies could be given as gifts to regiments who have lost soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If this is not sentiment enough, the positioning of the sculpture is particularly important. It will be pointing towards the Garrison, and beyond to Ypres - a salute to the valiant troops resting there.