As you approach the Tower of London, the moat is a sea of red, with tightly packed flowers as far as the eye can see. It’s an awe-inspiring sight, and even more so when you realise that every single bloom equates to a life lost in the First World War. It’s all part of an art installation called Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red, created by ceramicist Paul Cummins, which centres around the symbol of remembrance – the poppy. The first poppy was planted in the Tower’s moat on the 100 year anniversary of the First World War on 17 July and by Armistice Day on 11 November the moat will be full of 888,246 poppies.
Each poppy represents one soldier from the UK, Australia or Commonwealth who gave their life in the First World War. Each night at sunset the Last Post is played by a bugler and the names of another 180 war dead are read out from the Roll of Honour. There have been over four million visitors so far and a queue of people, young and old, snakes around the edge of the moat. But not for much longer – the exhibition is only temporary and the poppies are being sold off afterwards, raising over £7 million for charity. It’s an amazing sight and a great legacy for a conflict never to be forgotten.
The best place to see the poppies is from Tower Hill or the end of Tower Bridge. You don’t need a ticket for the Tower of London to see them, but if you do there’s a great viewpoint from the bridge over the moat. The last poppies will be planted outside the Tower on 11 November, then they’ll start to be removed. Some sections – like the poppies flowing out the window and the arch – will be touring the UK before going on display at the Imperial War Museum. The others have already all been sold, but AttractionTix, who kindly supplied my ticket to the Tower, are giving away one if you’d like to own your own piece of history.