Today, like many other people over the past several weeks, we have been on a special trip to London to see what is most likely a once in a lifetime event. This year marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and the Tower of London has been chosen to stage a huge installation commemorating and remembering all of the British and Colonial lives lost in the Great War. 888,246 ceramic poppies have been made and are being planted in the moat at the Tower, one poppy for every life lost.
The poppies are the inspiration of Paul Cummins, a Derbyshire ceramicist, and he drew his inspiration from a line in the will of a Derbyshire man who died in Flanders. "The blood swept lands and seas of red, where angels fear to tread". These poppies have all been made by hand by potters at Paul Cummings studio using techniques in use at the timeof the Frist World War. Some might say ironically that Paul has become a casualty too as he has lost a finger and damaged another while making the poppies. Tom Piper has worked in collaboration with Paul to bring his inspiration to life.
Our visit today was sadly a little marred by a wet day but the impact of the poppies was nonetheless huge. They are indeed like a huge red sea swirling all around the moat of the Tower of London. The crowds vying for a view of the scene were huge but happily all were calm and patient in their jostling for a good view.
These little sparrows have soon found a new perch in amongst the poppy stems. I wonder if sparrows ventured into the horror that was the trenches?
Despite the rain there was a huge group of volunteers planting poppies. I had not appreciated that the poppies are actually constructed on site and it would appear it involves quite a lot of effort.
You should be able to see that even the Chelsea Pensioners are getting involved.
The last poppy will be planted on Armistice Day, 11 November, and after that the poppies will be taken up and sent out to everyone who has requested one. A percentage of the monies from the sale of the poppies will be shared among 6 Forces charities. I'm happy and moved to say that one will be taking a special place in our garden later in the year.
There are a lot of videos on Youtube about the poppies and I have included one here about their manufacture.
Each day at sunset the names of 180 Commonwealth troops who died during the war are read out and the Last Post is sounded.
I abhor all forms of war and conflict and it is doubtful that this unique commemoration will change anything in the tide of man's brutality, but it is a formidable and very visual statement about the sheer numbers of individual lives obliterated in a war, and all around us today we could hear parents explaining to their children the significance of each flower. Paul Cummins and Tom Piper and all the individuals involved are to be commended for their vision and effort. The visual and emotional impact of the sea of red is both immediate and lasting.