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Remembrance Day and the Poppies at the Tower of London

Poppies at Tower of London

         Today, the 11th November, is Remembrance Day and while we pay our respects every year, this year is particularly important as it’s the centenary of the beginning of the First World War. A great-great-uncle of mine, Harold, died in the trenches on the 21st May 1916 at the young age of 24, which is younger than I am now and a sobering thought… He was Captain of the 20th London Regiment and my sister once managed to visit his grave in Cabaret Rouge near Arras on a school trip to France.

         In the UK we wear poppies to show our gratitude to the thousands who died trying to protect us. But this year there’s been something a bit more special: a poppy art installation at the Tower of London, called ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’. 888,246 hand-made ceramic poppies have been planted in the most around the Tower of London since July, each representing one of the 888,246 British and Colonial soldiers who died during World War One. Seeing the overwhelming number of poppies planted outside the Tower of London was heart-breaking as I tried to come to terms with the horrendous loss of life. Although there are some who disagree, in my opinion it’s a beautiful memorial and I feel it’s important to confront society with the true atrocity of WWI. Firstly, so that we do not forget those who died protecting us, and secondly so that we appreciate the value of human life and understand the consequences of war.

Poppies at Tower of London Poppies at Tower of London Poppies at Tower of London

         I visited the Tower of London a couple of weekends ago and, as well as seeing the poppies, I had wanted to see the Crown Jewels and learn about the history of the 1,000-year-old fortress. Unfortunately I chose a particularly busy day to go and the queues to visit each part of the tower were gigantic. Disappointingly faced with a 2-hour queue to see the Crown Jewels, I instead visited the White Tower which houses the world’s oldest visitor attraction, a 500-year-old armoury display, the Bloody Tower where Sir Walter Ralegh was held prisoner, and I walked along the South Wall Walk which overlooks Tower Bridge, the Thames and the Shard on Southbank. Tickets are usually £22, which is a lot if you do need to queue. However you can buy them for £16.70 on AttractionTix.

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          I’ll have to go back another day to see the Crown Jewels, but I have to say that I loved seeing the poppies. After the art installation the ceramic poppies will be sent to members of the public who pre-bought them. They’re now sold out but AttractionTix are running a competition to give away one of the poppies. The poppies were thought-provoking and reminded me, much like One Young World did two weeks ago, that I really have nothing to complain about. I haven’t lost a loved one to war, and fingers crossed I will continue to live in a stable enough context that I don’t have to fear that either. The First World War wiped out a significant part of the country’s population, radically altering the demographic of the country and leaving behind thousands of widows, widowers, orphans, tearing apart families and communities. I think we all need a bit more perspective and to keep these historic events in mind when we go about our day-to-day. And never forget.

Poppies at Tower of London Poppies at Tower of London Poppies at Tower of London

What’s your opinion of the poppies? Have you been to visit them?

6 Comments »

  1. I’ve only actually had a chance to see the poppy installation at night time which was still beautiful but obviously not the same as seeing the colours come out in daylight – so moving though and you’ve captured it beautifully in these photos. Hope you make it to the Crown Jewels soon!

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  2. My wife visited the poppies last Saturday and shared your opinion on their beauty and poignancy. I have only seen images of the poppies at the Tower but I also find them very moving .
    I found your thoughtful comments on the war very touching and regarding your great-great-uncle, I will be staying in Arras for a few days next May and will visit Cabaret Rouge to pay my respects.

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    • Thank you, that would be wonderful. Thinking about Harold, who at age 24 was too young to have any descendants of his own, it made me think about the thousands of young men who never had a chance to have a family, and who perhaps might not have anyone thinking of them and paying respect to them on this centenary. It’s a terribly sad thought, but so wonderful to see everyone in the country really get behind this artwork and pay their dues to the 880,246 fallen soldiers.

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  3. Great piece. I happened to be in Bath one Remembrance Day, and in London on another, and both times I was impressed by the entire country’s recognition of those who served and died, whether it was the huge number of people wearing a red poppy in their lapel or the widely observed two minutes of silence. And I think the ceramic poppies are an effective and powerful idea!

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    • Thanks Stephen, yes it was very moving. I’ll be interested to see how Britain commemorates WWI for the next three years too, as it’s only the beginning of the centenary in reality.

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