I went to the Tower of London today, to see the exhibition of poppies. To put it more correctly, it is the Installation of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, to commemorate 100 years since Britain joined the First World War. There have been a number of events commemorating the war this year, and regular readers will have seen my Letter to an Unknown Solder back in June.
The poppies have been “planted” all around the Tower, in the area that once was the moat. They come out of a couple of the windows and are growing in number on a daily basis. Eventually, there will be 888,246 poppies filling the moat. Even though I’d seen photographs, I wasn’t prepared for the vast expanse of scarlet in front of me, as I walked towards the Tower. It was absolutely beautiful but, at the same time, poignant. Knowing what the poppies were there to represent made me feel a little bit sad.
The poppies are all ceramic, and the number on show is added to every day. Each poppy represents the life of someone in the British forces who died during World War I. Note this is just the British Forces, not members of the public or anyone else involved. The poppies were created by Paul Cummins, a ceramic artist. I’ll confess to knowing nothing about him before this, but he doesn’t just make flowers, he makes all sorts of ceramics. You can read more about Paul here:
The layout was designed by Tom Piper, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Associate theatre designer. He’s done Macbeth, Pride and Prejudice and Anthony and Cleopatra, to name but a few, so no great surprise that he’s done such a fabulous job.
Every day at sunset, the names of 180 Commonwealth troops killed during the First World War are being read out as part of a Roll of Honour, this is then followed by the Last Post. (I didn’t stay for this today, but intend to go back for it another day.) Members of the public can nominate names to be read out for the Roll of Honour. See http://poppies.hrp.org.uk/about-the-installation for more information.
I’ve taken photographs from all angles around the Tower, so that you can see what the poppies look like at the moment. The last one is due to be laid on 11 November – Armistice Day.
The poppies are for sale, you can buy them now, the total cost, including postage and packing is £30.95. Net proceeds plus 10% from every poppy sold will go to one of the following charities:
Cobseo – I’d never heard of this one before. www.cobseo.org.uk
Combat Stress – This is tremendous charity, dealing with things like PTSD. A disappointingly high number of ex-forces personnel end up homeless when they leave the forces, and one of the reasons is that they struggle to fit into civilian life because those of that have never been to theatre of war just can’t understand what they have been through. Combat Stress can help with this. www.combatstress.org.uk
Coming Home – Another one I’d never heard of, but they provide specially adapted homes for those (far too many) service personnel who were injured and disabled. They also provide general housing for ex-service personnel. www.coming-home.org.uk
Help for Heroes – do you know, I don’t really know exactly what they do, but anyway.
The Royal British Legion – this is the one that most of us know about and is the biggest forces charity.
SSAFA – If I get this right, it’s Sailors, Soldiers and Air Forces Association.
While I was there, I took the opportunity to have a bit of a mooch around the general area, and took a few other photographs – The Shard behind HMS Belfast, and Tower Bridge. I’ve also taken photographs of the little church there at Tower Hill, All Hallows by The Tower, which is the oldest church in the City.
This is one of those churches that was founded by Barking Abbey in 675AD. John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States of America, was married here in 1797. Unfortunately, the church suffered bomb damage during the Second World War and only the tower and walls of the original church remain. It was rebuilt, and rededicated in 1957.
©Susan Shirley 2014