Tomorrow is November 11, Veteran’s Day, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, and the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. In the UK and the Commonwealth, November 11 is known as Remembrance Day.
Remembrance Day takes on more significance in the UK than here. Perhaps because 888,246 Commonwealth lives were lost in World War I. 888,246. that’s a staggering number. Can you imagine? Everyone in the UK must have been personally affected by that war.
This year the UK is marking Remembrance Day in a truly remarkable way. At the Tower of London 888,246 ceramic poppies are being planted, one for each life lost. The poppies could be purchased for 25 pounds each and will be sent to the donors in January.
I first heard of this project when I visited the Tower of London and saw the poppies that had been planted in the moat so far.
You can see the individual poppies in this photo.
That was the beginning of September. Now the whole moat is filled. The poppies now bleed from a bastion window, arc above the Tower’s medieval causeway, flow over the top of the walls and fill the moat with a sea of crimson.
The idea for this art project came from this poem:
Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red
The blood swept lands and seas of red,
Where angels dare to tread.
As God cried a tear of pain as the angels fell,
Again and again.
As the tears of mine fell to the ground
To sleep with the flowers of red
As any be dead
My children see and work through fields of my
Own with corn and wheat,
Blessed by love so far from pain of my resting
Fields so far from my love.
It be time to put my hand up and end this pain
Of living hell. to see the people around me
Fall someone angel as the mist falls around
And the rain so thick with black thunder I hear
Over the clouds, to sleep forever and kiss
The flower of my people gone before time
To sleep and cry no more
I put my hand up and see the land of red,
This is my time to go over,
I may not come back
So sleep, kiss the boys for me
So, tomorrow, think of the 888,246 lives represented in the Tower’s moat. Think, as well, of the 116,516 American dead. Think of all the soldiers who have died in wars in these last 100 years.
And honor them.
Do you have a particular person to remember on Veteran’s Day? Mine is my father, Col. Daniel J. Gaston, who spent a whole career in the army.
Thanks for sharing this. So grateful for those who serve.
This is a really lovely post and fascinating to read about the art project in London. It’s such a moving project.
I did want to make one note though! The war started in 1914, so this year marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the war, not the armistice as you stated. That will happen in 2018. So far away, and so much time to think about how many lives were lost in those four years.
oops. I stand corrected!
I heard on the radio today that the poppy became the symbol of Nov. 11 because in France it was always the first plant to bloom after soil had been disturbed. And also–not heard on the radio–farmers in that area of France still turn up explosives from WW1 when they plough.
Diane, thanks for a lovely post for Remembrance Day/Veterans Day! I think the installation at the Tower is extremely beautiful and very moving. I understand there was a groundswell of public sentiment asking to leave it in place more permanently, but the artist and the government will honor the original intent of the work to be temporary, and also keep their contract with all those who purchased the poppies. I’d never seen that poem –also very moving. My grandfather served in France in WWI, and I believe nearly all of his friends were killed in the war. He never talked much about it, but he left us some journals he’d kept. My dad served in WWII.
[…] originally posted this on November 10, 1914. I’m adapting it today, because….We need to […]