This memorial wreath takes the form of The Star of The Order of The Garter, with poppies forming the Cross of St. George at its centre. The Star, as well as being the heraldic symbol of Britain’s highest order of chivalry, is the regimental insignia of the Coldstream Guards. The losses of all five Regiments of Foot Guards are commemorated as part of The Guards Memorial, alongside those of the units that made up the The Guards Division, who lost their lives in World War One and “in the Service of their Country since 1918″. The memorial faces Horseguards Parade, the large parade ground in Whitehall, where The Guards troop their colours to mark The Monarch’s official birthday every year.
My maternal grandfather was from Coldstream, the ancestral home of the Coldstream Guards, so I have always had a bias towards the Regiment (and that’s why you’re not looking at a wreath shaped like the cap badge of The Grenadier Guards). I’ve written about the Coldstream Guards memorial in Henderson Park in Coldstream before [Photo Archive: Henderson Park, Coldstream, April 2012] and this insignia has appeared in more unexpected places on my travels [Coldstream Guards Hassock, St. Mary’s Church, Beverley, 14/05/14].
art installation, Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red, charity, Coming Home, Confederation of Service Charities, Help for Heroes, London, Military Charities, Paul Cummins, Poppies, Royal British Legion, SSAFA, Tom Piper, Tower of London
When planning a journey that involves travelling through London, between King’s Cross and Waterloo railway stations to be precise, I like to leave enough time to see something new in the Capital before moving on. On this occasion I dragged my heavy bag onto the Circle Line and then across Tower Hill to see “Blood Swept Lands and Sea of Red”, an art installation involving the planting of 800,000 ceramic poppies in the dry moat of the Tower of London.
The Royal British Legion’s website informs me that you can commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War by purchasing one of the ceramic poppies, the iconic symbol of remembrance, which form the installation. To quote the website: “The ceramic poppies are available to buy for £25 each and the net proceeds, hoped to be in excess of £15 million if all poppies are sold, will be shared equally amongst a group of carefully selected Service charities including the Legion”. Other charities that will benefit from the donations include the Confederation of Service Charities (COBSEO), Combat Stress, Coming Home, Help for Heroes and SSAFA (formerly the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association).
The Tower of London’s own website gives you a lot more information regarding Paul Cummins, the ceramic artist behind the creation of the poppies, and Tom Piper, who is responsible for the dramatic installation of the poppies.
What the articles about the installation do not prepare you for is the amount of people, lining the railings around the Tower’s outer defences, taking in this extraordinary spectacle. The Tower of London is a popular attraction at the best of times, but I must have been joined by more than a thousand people watching the installation evolve before their eyes, due to the efforts of the volunteers planting the ceramic poppies by hand.
Here are some more photographs I took on Sunday, but because the installation is evolving on a daily basis, these photographs are already out of date, so I would encourage you to go and see it for yourself, if you have the opportunity: