Today, Nov. 11th, the UK marks Remembrance Sunday, and some of the main ceremonies are taking place at a place I visited just over a month ago, an art installation and memorial at the Tower of London, called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red. This year marks the centenary of the start of World War I, and the installation is made up of ceramic poppies, one to mark each of the UK and Commonwealth soldiers who fell during World War I, a total of 888,246. They started placing the poppies in August, and by the time we visited at the beginning of October the work was almost complete. The poppy is the traditional symbol of fallen soldiers in the UK and Commonwealth.
When we visited, there were already many visitors at the site, and I have heard that it has become even more popular and crowded since then. It was a very moving and impressive sight, with the slightly disturbing blood colour and all that this symbolizes. The poppies "pour" out of a window in the tower and "flow" around it fluidly, filling the moat. Each poppy is unique, an individual like those who died, but they share a general shape and colour, and together they become a powerful image. Knowing that each poppy represents one human life lost in this war somehow makes the immense loss of life very tangible.
There have been ceremonies held every day at sunset, where the names of the fallen have been read out. We were not there to attend such a ceremony, but I can imagine how powerful this must be, especially for the descendants of the deceased soldiers. Hearing the names makes remembrance more personal.
The individual poppies were made available for sale, to raise money for veterans' charities, and have all sold out. After the remembrance ceremonies held this month the installation will be dismantled. I feel privileged to have witnessed this touching and powerful memorial.