An army veteran has used Seaham’s iconic Tommy statue as a tattoo tribute to family and friends lost as they served their country.
HGV driver Luke Hughes, 45, has never been to the East Durham town, but was struck by the poignancy of the artwork, created by Ray Lonsdale to capture the moment a First World War soldier pauses as peace is declared.
Luke, who is from Poole, in Dorset, and now lives in Weedon, Northamptonshire, and twin brother Adam served in the 1 Devon and Dorset Regiment, which went to become part of the 1 Rifles, until 2002.
In the same year they lost brother Lance Corporal Matt Hughes, 27, also a member of the regiment, in a road crash as his group returned from an exercise.
Luke, who is married to nurse Karen, 38, and dad to Maddie, 11, and Charlie, nine, spent 20hours being tattooed by friend Chris Lewis over an 18-month period.
The finished piece – already recognised by one Seaham holidaymaker – shows the sun going down, poppies at Tommy’s feet and a bi-plane and joins the regiment cap badge dedicated to Matt.
Now it’s finished I think it’s awesome and it seems quite popular with people.Luke Hughes
Luke, who was also a Lance Corporal, said: “It was Remembrance Day, so the Tommy statue appeared on Facebook and it really struck me as an image, so I started researching it and looking at photos and the rest was created by Chris.
“Now it’s finished I think it’s awesome and it seems quite popular with people.
“I lost my brother, but over the last 22 years I’ve known about 10 other men who got killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, so it’s also a tribute to them.
“I think Tommy is brilliant.”