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Poppies and Remembrance Day in England
If you visit England in the month of November, you will notice red poppies pinned to the lapel of many residents– especially the older generation. These red poppies were originally a symbol of commemoration of British soldiers who died in World War I (and now include the fallen from all wars since then), and are worn in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day on November 11 (the day World War I formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918).
The red poppies represent the first flowers that grew on the graves of British soldiers in the Flanders region of Belgium, as noted by John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields.
In Flanders Fields by John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Even as a visitor, you can show your respects for the contributions by the British soldiers, and at the same time, provide support for the Royal British Legion through your donation. You’ll find the red remembrance poppies offered everywhere throughout the UK– in London, you’ll see them at tube stations and on street corners. While most wear the simple poppy, you can find fancier jewelry versions, with all proceeds benefiting the legion.
Visiting the Poppy Memorial at the Tower of London– Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red
When I was in London last week, I visited the Tower of London to see artist Paul Cummins’ poppy memorial, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. The powerful poppy display features 888,246 ceramic poppies — one for every Commonwealth soldier who died in the First World War– in the moat surrounding the Tower of London. The poppy memorial at the Tower of London was created progressively and was finalized just last week.
Millions of visitors have already seen the Tower of London’s emotional installation, and the recent the completion of the memorial has brought in records crowds. The crowds were somewhat lessened in the dark, windy and rainy conditions when I visited, so I was able to snap a few photos, but nothing can really compare to standing in front of the sea of red poppies in the Tower’s moat.
The artist has commented that like life, the poppy display at the Tower of London is transient, and was originally intended to be dismantled after Remembrance Day on November 11. However, recent news reports indicate that due to huge demand, the Tower of London poppy display has been extended (in part) until the end of November. After the Tower of London Poppy display is dismantled, they will be moved to an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London.
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