North East comedian Sarah Millican is joining David Cameron for a project to mark the centenary of the First World War.
The South Shields-born star is joining the Prime Minister, soap stars, Hollywood actors and the cast of War Horse for an album of spoken word and music, marking moments from the Great War.
The Royal British Legion and the Victoria Cross Trust also tracked down descendants of a group of Victoria Cross recipients for the project, and they join the varied celebrity line-up for a unique collection of recordings compiled to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the war in 1914.
Sarah Millican will read Amy Lowell’s sonnet From One Who Stays for the recording, released on Decca Records.
David Cameron has recorded The Soldier by Rupert Brooke, while Eastenders actor Danny Dyer reads In Memoriam by Ewart Alan Mackintosh, Radio 4’s Today programme presenter Jim Naughtie reads For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon, actor Sean Bean reads Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen and presenter Stephen Fry reads In Flanders Fields by John McCrae.
The readings are set to music, such as instrumental versions of Abide With Me, The Day Thou Gavest, and I Vow to Thee, My Country. The album also features vintage music from the time, recorded by The Central Band of The Royal British Legion, such as It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, Keep the Home Fires Burning and Pack Up Your Troubles.
Also featured is a bugle that was played on the battlefields of Belgium and France, which can be heard on the Last Post fanfare.
The track Only Remembered from the stage version of War Horse was recorded especially for this album by the cast.
But it is the 10 descendants of the First World War Victoria Cross heroes who come together for the centrepiece of the album. Recording engineers pieced together their voices to record a special version of John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields.
The album is a “truly unique and painstaking collaboration”, Royal British Legion director of fundraising, Charles Byrne said.
“We are very grateful to the Victoria Cross Trust for their great dedication in helping source descendants of those whose selfless courage was recognised with the VC,” he said.
“The poetry borne of the struggles of World War One captured so hauntingly the trauma experienced by a generation of young men. Poets such as John McCrae and Wilfred Owen express this tragedy in a manner that only those who have seen it first-hand can describe.
“This album will help keep these moments alive for future generations.”
Mr Byrne said donations made by Decca from album proceeds to The Royal British Legion would go towards meeting the £230,000 spent every day by the Legion in helping and supporting present-day service personnel and their families.