TOMMY has found his final resting place after fund-raisers smashed the target to ensure his long-term future standing guard at Seaham’s seafront.
The race to secure cash to save the steel statue was launched as the town’s residents took the 1.2-tonne work of art to their hearts.
The nine-foot sculpture, officially called Eleven ‘O’ One, is a moving account depicting a World War One soldier captured in the first minute of peacetime.
It was originally meant to be on display at Terrace Green for three months to try to attract tourism to the town and a buyer for the statue.
However, the people of Seaham were so taken with Tommy that they launched Mission 1101, which the Echo backed with our Soldier On campaign, to buy the artwork and keep him in the town permanently.
It had been valued at £102,000, but because Seaham Town Council offered to make the transaction, the price came down to £85,000 as it does not have to pay VAT.
With the council stumping up £20,000 towards the cause, it was left to campaigners to raise £65,000 – which they have now done, reaching £70,000.
Mission 1101 chairman David Stewart told the Echo: “I’m absolutely ecstatic. I’m so relieved that we’ve been able to reach this target.
“We’ve actually exceeded the target, so we’ve got a bit extra to save for additional things that we need. It’s absolutely remarkable really.”
The sculpture was designed to capture a soldier in the first moments after the Armistice came into force.
Its loan has been timed to coincide with August 4, the 100th anniversary of Britain declaring war on Germany in the First Wold War.
A deposit of £20,000 had already been handed to Tommy’s creator – South Hetton artist Ray Lonsdale – and arrangements will be made to pay the full amount on Monday.
David added: “I, along with the full committee and volunteers, would like to thank you all for your support and fund-raising efforts over the last 12 weeks.
“It’s been incredible.
“We also would like to thank Ray for allowing us the opportunity of coming together as a community to buy Tommy.
“It was a great leap of faith for Ray as he had turned down full payment offers elsewhere to allow us to reach our target to keep Tommy where he belongs.
“It’s amazing what our town and visitors can do when we put our mind to it.”
The group’s Justgiving page at www.justgiving.com/mission1101 will be closed down for donations today but will be left open so that people can continue to view the messages.