'Labour of love': This diorama of a WW II battle took more than 160 hours to build

It began more than a year and a half ago and took 160 hours to build. 

An artist from Hampton, N.B., completed a large diorama in September depicting the story of Capt. Robert McLeod, a New Brunswick soldier who served in the Second World War.

"It started as a labour of love," said Nick Dunning. 

Nick Dunning was inspired by McLeod's bravery in a little Italian village called Montecchio. He was asked to provide relief to Cape Breton Highlanders who were taking heavy casualities at the hands of the German 9th Fallschirmjager. 

McLeod, who served with the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise's), commanded a brigade of four M34A1 Sherman tanks, but was blocked by the Canadian Military Provost — the field police. 

"He then mounted a motorbike to reach the Cape Breton Highlanders headquarters," said Dunning. "He was told, 'Bring up the tanks.'"

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Dunning said McLeod had no choice but to bypass the military police restrictions and lead his armoured squadron directly into the firefight with the Germans. 

The tanks and McLeod's soldiers saved many lives, according to Dunning's research.

Diorama to be displayed

The diorama will be placed in the Kings County Museum in Hampton, 30 kilometres northeast of Saint John. 

Dunning, who also served with the Canadian Hussars Militia for three years starting in the summer of 1968, said he created the diorama — a three-dimensional scale model depicting an event — to remember the sacrifice soldiers made during the war.

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"I appreciate the freedom we have is because of the sacrifices the men and women made during both World Wars and I never take that for granted," he said.

He said a lot of research went into creating the installation. Dunning cross-referenced books, pictures, and even spoke with McLeod's family in order to prepare the diorama.

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According to his obituary, McLeod was born in Penobsquis, about 60 kilometres from Moncton, in 1920.

He graduated from the University of New Brunswick in math and chemistry in 1941. McLeod died on Sept. 23, 2007 at the age of 87.

Dunning said he is most proud of how he's replicated some of the facial expressions he saw in the photographs he collected through his research.

"It's a long process but it's very rewarding at the end," Dunning said.

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He hopes that when people look at the diorama they are reminded of the soldiers who lost their lives.

"We take so much for granted and which we shouldn't," he said. "And a lot of our veterans are passing on, we don't have too many left."

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Dunning said monuments and dioramas like his are vital to ensure veterans know they're appreciated and remembered.

The diorama will be on display at the Kings County Museum when it re-opens for the season on July 15.