Sunday, 19 October 2014

Blood Swept Lands & Seas of Red

I first visited Paul Cummins’ art installation at the Tower of London back on 5th August when the attraction had just opened.  It was a work in progress, but a magnificent memorial, regardless of its incompleteness.

 By 11 November 2014 there will be 888,246 ceramic poppies occupying the moat of the Tower. Yesterday, Saturday 18 October, I became part of this history, and planted a few of these poppies myself. Along with my wife, three sisters-in-law and a brother in law, and about 194 other volunteers, I spent the afternoon in the moat next to Traitors’ Gate, assembling and planting these beautiful red flowers and generally being a tourist attraction.

Just think of that number: 888,246. 


That’s one flower for each of the colonial soldiers killed in the First World War. It sounds a lot, but that number is overwhelming when you wander around the moat and see the vast expanse of red flowers – and the installation is still expanding.


It was an enjoyable afternoon – warm, friendly and worthwhile. We stayed into the evening to witness the role call: at sundown each night, the names of 180 of those who died is read out at the front of the tower. I was amazed at the thousands of people who gathered for this event in total silence – silence except for sound of London traffic, the sirens of emergency vehicles ... and the mobile phone that rang during the reading of names. 

 
Then came the last post.
 A solitary guardsman stood on a small mound amidst the poppies and let his trumpet sing the mournful tune.

Want to volunteer?