Other Ranks

"featured on Radio 4, In-Touch, October 2014

Other Ranks installed inside the Royal Armouries Museum. The piece takes the form of 16 visible (and 4 hidden) loudspeakers arranged around the room. The floor is formed from hundreds of crowd-sourced photos of the potential victims of war (soldier and civilian alike) and at the perimeter lanterns illuminate hundreds of used soldier's boots arranged as if marching around the space.

click here to read the ‘Other Ranks’ Listening Notes
click here to read ‘Other Ramblings’

(Some additional pieces of writing related to the making and showing of ‘Other Ranks’.)

Click above to listen to a stereo exerpt from ’Other Ranks’, featuring the voice of Jim Broadbent, performing Henry Reed’s poem "Naming of Parts", set among voices of present-day soldiers. This clip sits just under halfway through the forty minute piece...

Exhibition Schedule : As humans we haven’t yet learned to co-exist peacefully, so war happens and consumes people.

Soldiers put their lives on the line between the savagery of war and the civilian public... yet soldiers are really ‘just’ people, too.

‘Other Ranks’ contains many voices. You can’t listen closely to all of them at once so relax and let the sound carry you.

You can move around the space. There are many ways to explore the soundscape. There is two minutes’ silence at the beginning.

Please pick up a card and submit your comments. Warmest thanks for coming in

Amie Slavin, Sound Artist

(photo of boots piled on a crate awaiting a trip down to -40°C before being allowed into the museum)

Full project info and additional voices at:

Introducing Other Ranks at the Private View, Royal Armouries Museum, 22nd November 2012
thanks to Chrissie Caulfield for the recording

Inspiration for Other Ranks

The development of this work, from an initial interest through a vague feeling to an increasing sense of urgency, has been a very slow burn. I’ve been building up to doing this since childhood, guided by history, fiction and imagination. I have no specialist knowledge of any historical period or military matters. What I have is a passion for learning directly from people who really know what they’re talking about.

It is squaddies themselves - the fallen, the veterans and those now serving - who inspired me to complete this project.

In 2009 I was reading history and observing, as we all have, the steady drip-drip of veterans returning from the current wars. My own children were 2- and 4-years old. Everyone who goes to war was once someone’s precious baby. Whether they were loved and cherished is a different matter, but they all deserved to be.

‘Other Ranks’ was born because I couldn’t bear to hear people saying that soldiers ‘know what they’re signing up for’.
How could anyone possibly know?
When I think of people in fear and pain I think of my own children’s need for love, compassion and comfort.

Squaddies are people, precious and unique; not dispensable, not expendable but complex and compelling, just like everyone else!

(Portrait photo of Amie)

Telephone conversation with Peter Rhodes, author of For A Shilling A Day, his book of firsthand accounts of warfare and military people, collected over years of newspaper journalism - big thanks to Peter for agreeing to talk to me for 'Other Ranks'.

Footage from a recording session : Officer Training at Sandhurst Royal Military Academy

Edited telephone interview with Bernard Cornwell, author of the Sharpe series, and Azincourt (Agincourt)
Beginning with the inspirations for Sharpe, the author goes on to discuss, among other things, the motivations for becoming a soldier and the singular status soldiers hold, by necessity - warmest thanks to Bernard for agreeing to talk to me for 'Other Ranks'.

My heartfelt thanks are due to the following people and organisations, without all of whom this project would not have been possible:
    Arts Council England (main funder)
    Royal Armouries (host venue and major in-kind supporter)
    Field Textiles (contribution of boots and other kit)
    Daz Disley (Sound engineering and studio support; collaborative design of photographic flooring; field session engineering)
    Jack Rabelais (field recording).
    Damo Waters (field recording)
    Emma Smith (photo wrangling)

    Staff and officer cadets at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, especially Major-General P C Marriott CBE,
    Lieutenant-Colonel James Cook RA,
    Major Jack Duckitt RM,
    WO2 (CSM) Clarke (Nobby),
    Colour Sergeants Ramsden and Tweed
    1st Battalion, The Grenadier Guards.
    Band of The Grenadier Guards.
    Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines.
    Timothy David, Media & Communication, Army Headquarters.
The following have lent their voices to the project directly:
    Lance corporal Adam Blackburn, Royal Corps of Signals.
    Derek Hocking, former sergeant, Royal Anglian Regiment, previously
    The Royal Lincolnshire Regiment.
    Corporal David Evans, Territorial Army infantry.
    Barrie Raine, former corporal, Royal Corps of Signals.
    Sergeant James Figel, Royal Corps of Signals.
    Trevor Weston, former warrant officer, Small Arms School Corps, previously Coldstream Guards (additionally undertook field recording)
    Tony Levi, former corporal, Royal Corps of Signals.
    A former Territorial Army combat medic (prefers not to be named)
    A staff sergeant, Royal Engineers (prefers not to be named)
    Jim Broadbent, actor
    Bernard Cornwell, author
    Peter Rhodes, author
    Peter Rhodes, Bugler
    Eddie Francis, Ian Rushby, Daniel Hack and the Lindsay Rural Players (voiced extracts from For-A-Shilling-A-Day by Peter Rhodes and Poems by Rudyard Kipling, Wilfred Owen and Henry Reid).
Your help has been immense and essential. I can’t thank you all enough; it’s been a pleasure and a real privilege.


Supported by Arts Council England, Royal Armouries Leeds, Lincoln Drill Hall and Field Textiles Ltd.