Remembrance Day and the Poppies at the 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.
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.
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.