WEIGHING over four tonnes, a huge marble poppy has been put up in Bassett as a tribute to the town's repatriations by local artist Mark Humphreys.

Mark's work 'Everyman Remembered' took pride of place at Trafalgar Square during the centenary of World War One at Armistice Day last year.

Not one to shirk his roots, Mark, originally of RAF Wroughton, wanted to do something similar for the place he was born, and settled on the 'Forever' poppy to commemorate the efforts made by Royal Wootton Bassett

The coffins of 355 fallen military personnel passed through the town between spring 2007 and summer 2011 with the High Street being a focal point for families of the deceased.

"Last year was really the start of my military public art, for remembrance and for the subject of war," said Mark.

"I thought I would not be fair to sponsor the London event without recognising where I am from, so I wanted to do something for the place I was born. 

"This poppy is not just for the world wars but for the more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for the soldiers themselves."

The Carrara marble, taken from the same quarry used by Michaelangelo, was shipped over from Italy on Monday after being built by Studio Stagetti near Pisa. 

"I work a lot in that material, and it is naturally grey and white, which I wanted to symbolise peace by day," Mark added. "By night it will be lit up in red for remembrance.

"It is an abstract poppy shape of four hearts, one for love, one for respect, one for gratitude, and one for honour. The cross symbolises sacrifice and forgiveness. 

"The sculpture has now been fitted and installed, working through some nasty weather, and it will be a couple of weeks of getting in grass and cleaning the site before it looks immaculate. 

"It is all about thanking the town for what it did in the repatriations and for those conflicts." 

Mark's great grandfather, Walter Smewing, inspired the design with an engraved a brass bombshell taken from the Somme, where he fought when he was 21.

In the next two weeks the site will be cleaned, in no small part by Coun Chris Wannell, who has his own fire engine readied.

Ian Ferries, mayor of Wootton Bassett, said he hoped the sculpture would survive many future generations. 

"I think it is such a truly marvellous piece of art, and it rather epitomises the spirit of Wootton Bassett in many ways," he said. 

"The artist's intention when he gave it to us was an appreciation for all the town had done during the repatriations.

"It will be a couple of weeks before it is completely finished, as the site has to be cleared with the turf fully laid down as they tidy up after all the work that has gone on over the last few days.

"One of our councillors, Chris Wannell, has a fire engine and he has that on standby loaded up ready to come and wash off all the mud and dirt that accumulates.

"The motto of the town is to honour those who serve, and what finer visual item to demonstrate that than a marble poppy which will look absolutely glorious. 

"It is something that is going to be with us forever, and future generations will always know what it is their town did."