On 17th July 2014, a Yeoman Warder of the Tower of London (also known as a Beefeater) planted a single red porcelain poppy in the grass of the moat surrounding the Tower. Other poppies followed, and the installation named Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red was first revealed to the public on 5th August, the centenary of the United Kingdom’s entry into the conflict that became known as WWI.
Ceramic poppies spill from a window high on the Tower wall, pooling in the moat below, washing the base of the stone walls. As more poppies were added to the display by volunteers working on the project, they surge up in a wave over the causeway leading to the entrance to the Tower.
Created by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper, the installation will be completed with the planting of the final poppy on Armistice Day on 11th November. This will bring the total number of poppies flooding the moat to 888,246, each representing a British and Commonwealth soldier killed in the conflict.
The installation has been criticised in some quarters as a sanitised interpretation of the grotesque and bloody events of WWI, however the sheer scale of the work has captured the imagination of the British people and the many visitors to London. Those attending at sunset everyday for the sounding of the Last Post and the reading of the Role of Honour, can’t fail to be moved viscerally by the thought of a name, and a family, attached to each and every one of the fragile flowers blooming brightly for a few short months.