‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’; the installation that has been created in the Tower’s famous dry moat. Which continued to grow throughout the summer until the moat was filled with 888,246 ceramic poppies, each poppy representing a British or Colonial military; the work was designed as a tribute to Britain’s World War I dead, the blood-red trench of ceramic poppies that circle the Tower of London have become a national phenomenon as Britons flock to remember the countless fallen over many generations of war. Up to four million people – six percent of the country’s population – are expected to visit the exhibit dubbed “Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red” before the last flower is planted on Tuesday on the anniversary of the end of World War I.
Now Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha have planted the last two ceramic poppies at the Tower of London after announcing a section of the stunning display will remain in place; after huge public demand to extend the installation’s lifespan, Cameron announced the Weeping Window and the Wave elements would stay in place until the end of November. The Prime Minister was joined by his wife as thousands more visitors crowded around the Tower to get a glimpse of’ Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ after the huge public demand for its extension.
The poignant artwork is now also one of London’s busiest tourist attractions as the 888,246 poppies, one for every British soldier who died in the conflict, have been progressively planted in the tower’s moat since August. With many visistors both old and young including those with their own personal experiences.
“We lived through World War II – I was six when the war broke out – my grandfather was in World War I and was gassed three times, so I have quite a lot to think about,” said Ann Household, 81, who had traveled from the southern coastal town of Eastbourne to see the exhibit. “It’s affected every generation of our family.” Her husband Graham explained that his sister, Dorothy, was killed by an Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb at the Tower of London in 1974 – “so we have another connection”. “If anything tells you about the crazy futility of war, it’s this,” the 79-year-old told Artdaily – continuing; “We always get involved – why do we always get involved?”
At peak visiting times for the popular installation officials have had to close the nearby Underground station due to overcrowding, yet organisers have continued to resist calls from politicians, and the public to keep the exhibit open longer periods. The work will start to be dismantled on Wednesday and the poppies will sold off to raise money for military-related charities, although it has been decided that a section of the exhibit will eventually go on permanent display at the Imperial War Museum.
The poppy has been a symbol of remembrance for Britain’s war dead since the flower grew on the battlefields of northern Europe during the 1914-18 “war to end all wars”. This year’s Armistice Day carries particular resonance as it comes 100 years on from the start of the Great War and the withdrawal of British combat troops from Afghanistan after 13 years of combat in the region.