In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
Major John McCrae, a doctor with the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery, wrote the moving poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ in May, 1915, in tribute to his fallen comrade Lieutenant Alexis Helmer. The poppy has been a symbol of remembrance of the Great War ever since.
Now, to mark the centenary of the start of World War 1 and commemorate the 888,246 British and Commonwealth servicemen and women who died, that exact number of ceramic, hand-made red poppies are being planted in tribute around the Tower of London.
This simple, eloquent and moving tribute is the work of ceramicist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper. Cummins enlisted around 50 people to help him make the ceramic flowers for this installation, titled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.
The artist told The Guardian earlier this year that the title came from a line – ‘The blood-swept lands and seas of red, where angels fear to tread’ – in the will of an unknown English soldier, buried in Flanders.
The Tower’s longest-serving Yeoman Warden, Crawford Butler, planted the first poppy last week and a team of more than 100 volunteers continue to fill the 7-hectare moat with the poppies. The last poppy will be symbolically planted on Remembrance Day, 11 November, 2014.
The installation is officially unveiled next Monday, August 5 – 100 years since the first full day of Britain’s engagement in WWI and the ceramic poppies are being sold for £25 ($45) each to raise money for service charities.
At twilight daily, the names of 180 service people killed during the war are being read out, followed by the Last Post.
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