The Tower of London Poppies: Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

31 October 2014

At the beginning of August a major art installation began to take shape on and around one of London’s most historic landmarks – the Tower of London.  Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red by ceramic artist Paul Cummins now dominates the whole area.  Since the longest-serving yeoman warder at the tower placed the first ceramic poppy in the summer it has been followed by hundreds of thousands of others. On 11 November, Armistice Day, there will be 888,246.  Each one represents a British or Commonwealth soldier killed during the First World War.

The project, which has sadly not been short of detractors, is simply breath-taking. A drop of red for each of the men who perished in what was supposed to be the war to end all wars, this artwork does not seek to lionize these soldiers but to solemnly remember them and their sacrifice. It is always, despite the naysayers, forward looking.  Each and every poppy has been bought by members of the public: six armed forces charities will benefit to the sum of over £1 million each, to assist and support ex-service men and women in the future.
Image Credit planetjones
Image Credit steve_cottrell
Artist Paul Cummins came across a memento mori note while doing research in Chesterfield Library.  Soldiers during the war were encouraged by their commanding officers to write these notes in case they were never to return back home.  The note Cummins found read: The blood-swept lands and seas of red, where angels fear to tread.  Although it was not signed (and perhaps that is appropriate) the first line of the short poem gave the artist the inspiration for the project. 

Image Credit  Quite Adept
Image Credit tonyhisgett
The scale of the installation may be immense but when compared to the scale of sacrifice and loss which it represents and remembers, even its immensity diminishes.

Image Credit Michael Day
Image Credit steeljam
Image Credit steeljam
Image Credit steeljam
Image Credit steeljam
Image Credit tomylees
Image Credit thehutch
Image Credit thehutch
Image Martin Pettitt


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