THE TOWER OF LONDON POPPY INSTALLATION OCTOBER 2014
A post written by blog reader and Twitter follower Karen Wallace.
On the 12th August 1916 my Gt-Gt Uncle Herbert (aged 24) died at The Somme and on the 22nd October 1917, his brother, my Gt-Gt Uncle Albert (aged 23) died at Poelcappelle, better known as the battle of Passchendaele.
It was with these two relatives in mind that I felt I had to visit the display at the Tower of London and somehow pay my respects to them and to all of the 888, 246 fallen servicemen of the First World War.
It was dark when we arrived. There was a bright, almost full-moon and The Tower was illuminated with a soft glow of lights dotted around its perimeter. There was hardly a soul there at 8 o’clock in the evening and the traffic had died down to be a gentle hum.
It was beautifully peaceful and serene and the poppies were there, in the shadow’s, as if resting or sleeping. They weren’t lit up at all, which made it feel slightly eerie and surreal. None of us said very much – we were in awe. We took some photos but mostly we just felt an air of calm and stillness and we had to drag ourselves away.
The next day, we were blessed with glorious autumn weather and seeing the whole display was an attack on the senses. This stunning visual display was so completely awe-inspiring and beautiful that it almost took my breath away. It truly is an emotional sight.
The intricateness of the tumbling poppies from the windows and the bank of poppies on the east side of the Tower was so brilliant in their conception and execution that it brought a lump to my throat. The intensity of the red against the pale brick walls was so breath-taking that I could not take enough photos of them.
When we walked round past the snaking queue waiting to enter The Tower, we were not expecting the sight of so many tourists who had flocked to see them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so busy there before. And then seeing the bank of red in the widest part of the moat was a stunning sight to behold. And everybody was so polite to each other! People waited patiently for others to finish taking their photographs before gently moving into the vacant space to take theirs; people were offering to take photos of each other so they didn’t have to do the dreaded ‘selfie’! We were asked several times and I also offered and likewise, a lovely couple took a picture of us for posterity.
It didn’t take long for us to realise that we were taking part in a piece of history. Nothing like this would happen again, not in our life-time. We needed to drink in the whole atmosphere, to savour the situation and make the most of the event. We couldn’t rush this so we calmly, and slowly made our way round the whole perimeter of The Tower. From every side, from every angle it was beautiful. There were scores of volunteers planting more poppies and being involved in a piece of British artistic and cultural history.
I most definitely need to travel back and see it again. I need to take my grandchildren and for them to see history in the making, to see a once-in-a-lifetime event that marks such a dreadful part of our history and the futility of war.
When we first saw the poppies, it was hard to comprehend their beauty with such death and destruction, but then you look a bit closer and it clicks into place just how many of our young men died in such a futile conflict.
1 poppy = 1 life. And two of those poppies are for my Gt-Gt Uncles and I’m so glad I purchased one as I now feel even more connected with this historic event and with Uncle Albert and Uncle Herbert.