The Tower of London Pours 888,246 Poppies From A Window To Honor WWI Dead

A new installation by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper commemorates all British deaths from World War I with 888, 246 red ceramic poppies creatively arranged around the tower.

The human toll of war is hard to appreciate or understand in cold, hard statistics. Probably because nobody wants to think about what they truly mean. Sometimes, it actually takes seeing the number fleshed out in a meaningful way to realize each one of those digits is a person. Last fall, 9,000 soldiers were etched into the sand of the Arromanches beaches to commemorate all who perished on D-Day. Now, the first day of Britain's involvement in World War I is being marked with a similar display of casualty-visualization--this time with bright red poppies to remind us of the blood spilled.

August 5 will mark exactly 100 years since the first day of Britain's entry into the war. On that day, an installation will open at the Tower of London, in which 888,246 red ceramic poppies will be arranged around the tower, honoring the precise number of British and colonial soldiers that died between the outbreak of war in 1914, and 1921 (the war ended in 1918 but the artists are recognizing those who died of their wounds after returning home). As dreamed up by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper, “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” flows out of the window and into the Tower's moat, a seemingly endless stream of crimson. Cummins told the Guardian the installation's name was inspired by the words he found in the will of a fallen solider: "I don't know his name or where he was buried or anything about him. But this line he wrote, when everyone he knew was dead and everywhere around him was covered in blood, jumped out at me: 'The blood-swept lands and seas of red, where angels fear to tread.'" The last poppy will be "planted" November 11, the date WWI ended and the poppies will be available for purchase.

Unlike a number in a news story, such a sight that so quickly and thoroughly conveys the human cost of war, should help Britons, and others, appreciate the sacrifice it represents.

[Image courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces]

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13 Comments

  • Brian Ashley

    These Poppies really show the scale of debt that we owe those brave young people what a fantastic tribute. May their and relatives souls forever rest in peace and tranquillity,. I thank them.

  • Harrison Latour Thomas

    Around the year 1240 King Henry III made the Tower of London his home. He whitewashed the tower, widened the grounds to include a church, and added a great hall and other buildings. The Normans called the tower 'La Tour Blanche' [White tower].

    THE CHATEAU DE LA TOUR BLANCHE La Tour-Blanche is a commune in the Dordogne department in Aquitaine in southwestern France.

    The who. Follows Lisle Road, up towards Saint-Just and La Tour-Blanche, traveler can not help but be deeply impressed by the sight of considerable ruins of two castles located a few kilometers away. One at the end of the town of Grand-Brassac is Maroite Castle, former residence of Montagrier and Rohan-Chabot; the other, that of La Tour-Blanche, who played a much more important role in the history of Périgord. Thanks to the collaboration of Baron J. de Verneilh I could in 1885 to publicize the first in its dual historical and archaeological aspects; it remains to speak of the latter.

    He sometimes sorely tempted pen or pen

  • Harrison Latour Thomas

    Around the year 1240 King Henry III made the Tower of London his home. He whitewashed the tower, widened the grounds to include a church, and added a great hall and other buildings. The Normans called the tower 'La Tour Blanche' [White tower].

  • Harrison Latour Thomas

    Moina Michael (August 15, 1869-May 10, 1944) was a U.S. professor and humanitarian who conceived the idea of using poppies as a symbol of remembrance for those who served in World War I.

    Born in Good Hope, Georgia, Michael was educated at Lucy Cobb Institute and Georgia State Teachers College, both located in Athens, Georgia, and Columbia University in New York City. She was a professor at the University of Georgia when the U.S. entered World War I. She took a leave of absence from her work and volunteered to assist in the New York-based training headquarters for overseas YWCA workers.[1]

    Inspired by the Canadian John McCrae battlefront-theme poem In Flanders Fields, she published a poem in response called We Shall Keep the Faith.[1] In tribute to the opening lines of McCrae's poem -- "In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses row on row," -- Michael vowed to always wear a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance for those who served in the war.[2]

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  • Harrison Latour Thomas

    The British Legion was founded in 1921 as a voice for the ex-Service community as a merger of four organisations: the Comrades of the Great War, the National Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers, the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilized Sailors and Soldiers and the Officers' Association. It was granted a Royal Charter on 29 May 1971 to mark its fiftieth anniversary which gives the Legion the privilege of the prefix 'Royal'.

    Earl Haig, commander of the Battle of the Somme and Passchendaele was one of the founders of the Legion and President until his death.

    Perhaps best known for the yearly Poppy Appeal and Remembrance services, the Legion is a campaigning organisation that promotes the welfare and interests of current and former members of the British Armed Forces.

    The Legion fight nearly 36,000 on going War Disablement Pension cases for war veterans and make around 300,000 welfare and friendship visits every year.

  • Peter Thompson

    The imagery is extremely powerful and with what is going on in the world today proves that we humans do not learn from past mistakes.......

  • June Nicholls

    incredible scenes.time to remember those who fell and those who live with the sights and memories of that war

  • The last line of Wilfred Owen's famous poem ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’ - It is sweet and right to die for your country’ – was heavy with scorn and sarcasm.

    This exhibition is shocking in its breadth and terrible in its beauty.

  • Mike Hamblett

    I would like to know how long they will be there, and is there a creative idea for what to do with the poppies afterwards. They could be given to visitors or used to raise funds for Palestine?

  • Gill Payne

    The last poppy will be planted on the 11th November. You can put your name down now to buy a poppy. They will be £25.00 each plus p&p,. All profits plus 10% of the cost of each poppy will be going to charity. The total will be shared amongst 6 Forces charities.

  • gallopingcoconut

    It ends apparently on November 11th, the day that the Armistice was signed in 1918, marking the end of the war. And the poppies will be available for purchase after the exhibition, with proceeds to benefit six UK charities. That's what I read anyway.