A new exhibition at the National Memorial Arboretum will tell the stories behind military tattoos.

Running until 1st December, Tribute Ink shows how comrades and loved ones who have died in service are remembered through body art.

It also examines how serving personnel use tattooing to mark their achievements and create a sense of identity and belonging.

Head of Armed Forces Engagement at The Royal British Legion and former Household Cavalry Officer Alex Owen said: “The sacrifices made in the armed forces, big and small, are ones that come to define you.

“The Royal British Legion’s Tribute Ink exhibition aims to uncover some of the inspiring modern stories of Remembrance living on the skin, and in the hearts, of our servicemen and women today.

“From the most elaborate full body coverage to the tiniest tribute to a fallen friend, Tribute Ink aims to offer a glimpse into the comradeship, bravery and sacrifice of our armed forces community.”

“Changed my perception of remembrance”

Photographer Charlie Clift was given access to military-inspired locations to capture service personnel and veterans and their body art.

He said: “Diving into the lives of the many forces members and veterans I photographed was an honour.

“Their stories are important, and I was eager to do everything I could to help tell them.

“The project has changed my perception of remembrance completely – it doesn’t have to be done in silence on a sombre Sunday, people can remember in a million different ways.

“I hope my pictures can help honour those who serve and encourage others to remember in new ways.”

Alongside Clift’s photographs are life-sized replicas of some of the tattoos, which have been transferred onto 3D sculptures.

“My own symbol of remembrance”

One of those featured is veteran Craig Daniel, 29, who was a Senior Aircraftsman in the Royal Air Force and completed two operational tours of Afghanistan with the RAF Regiment.

He was on his third deployment when he was injured by a blast and was medically discharged due to his injuries. The tattoos on his legs tell stories of his service and remember the sacrifices that he and others made.

“For me, my tattoo is a visual memory of my time in service,” he said. “It allows me to commemorate those I lost along the way and reminds me of how lucky I am to be here today.

“Remembering isn’t just one day and I see my tattoo as my own symbol of remembrance.”

Tribute Ink features four key themes; Rethinking Remembrance, Remembering the Fallen, A Badge of Belonging and Marking the Memories.

Alongside the exhibition, people are invited to upload their own images of their tattoos and share the stories behind them on social media using the #tributeink hashtag.


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