One of the most visually emotive events in London to mark the First World War Centenary was the BLOOD SWEPT LANDS AND SEAS OF RED installation at the Tower of London. We went to visit it on 13 November 2014 as the dismantling was underway. The last poppy was placed on Armistice Day, 11 November 2014. Because of the demand, part of the installation will stay until the end of November, so I'm presuming that the dismantling will take some time.
Each poppy was individually handmade by over 300 volunteers and each one was sold for £25 each to raise money for six charities: The Royal British Legion, Confederation of Service Charities (COBSEO), Combat Stress, Coming Home, Help for Heroes and SSAFA (formerly the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association). The charities then asked for volunteers to plant to poppies in the moat.
There have been millions of visitors to see the poppies. We went via Aldgate East Tube station and there were signs leading the way from the station and on the streets outside.
Our first view of the poppies. Not as many people as we expected to see, but I think that was because the television cameras were there during the reading of names from the Roll of Honour and other significant times.
This was the view from the upper walkway, just to give you some idea of the people and therefore the scale of the area. This corner was particularly crowded as the steps are to the left and people arriving from Tower Bridge (through the trees) accessed from this side.
Tower Bridge is in the background and the road is lined with people looking down into the moat. The blue tents are boxes for use by the volunteers working on removing and packing up the poppies. Note the poppies climbing the tower. Not sure if this section has a name but another section is called the "Weeping Window" which, together with the "Wave" surging over the entrance, will be removed last.
It is difficult to grasp the scale of the installation but if you realise that this is only one side of the moat and that these poppies continue all around then you can get some idea of the mammoth task in creating it and from that the tremendous loss of life. From the previous photograph we turned right to see this view. You can just see the Shard in the top left corner. The two photographs above together show less than half of the moat.
"Created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, with setting by stage designer Tom Piper, 888,246 ceramic poppies will progressively fill the Tower's famous moat over the summer. Each poppy represents a British military fatality during the war."
Although this quote from the British Legion's website says "British" military casualties, what this means in reality is British, Irish and Commonwealth military. That excludes civilians.
There were impromptu memorials from families all along the walkway above the moat. Note the Star of David among the crosses for Harry Levy.
Some the memorials were for the First World War, some for the Second World War and many were for soldiers who died in Afghanistan and Iraq in this century. Photographs and stories were pinned to the railings, as well as copies of the CWGC commemorative certificates. People were taking time to read these and show their respect.
Our main purpose in visiting Tower Hill, even more than seeing the poppies, was to visit the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleet Memorial in Trinity Gardens for those "who have no known grave but the sea".
You can see The Shard again in the background. We'll be going there next week to have a birthday dinner in the Chinese restaurant for my husband.
This is the tablet comemorating the crew of the SS Gafsa with the name of Alfred Whatmore highlighted. Alfred lived not far from Tower Hill, on the West India Dock Road in Limehouse, the historical Chinatown of London. His father was steward in the Strangers Home, therefore Alfred was no stranger to Oriental food. We'll raise a glass to his memory.