This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. To commemorate that event, a special art installation, or display, was set up around the Tower of London, in the United Kingdom (U.K.). The Tower of London is an ancient castle located along the River Thames in London. Starting on July 17, ceramic poppies were planted around the Tower every day until a sea of red covered its grounds. Poppies were chosen because they are used as a symbol to remember soldiers who have died in war.
The last poppies were placed around the Tower of London on November 11, which is Armistice Day in the U.K. Armistice Day marks the end of World War I. It is similar to Veterans Day in the United States. Each of the 888,246 poppies in the Tower display represented a soldier from the British Commonwealth who was killed in World War I. Every day at dusk, a speaker read the names of soldiers who died in the war.
Artist Paul Cummins came up with the idea for the poppy installation. He named the display “Blood Swept Land And Seas of Red” after a line in a poem that inspired him. The poem was written by an unknown soldier who died in World War I. Cummins was struck by this line and wanted to create a visual for it. A set designer named Tom Piper worked with Cummins to create the layout for the poppies. In one part of the display, the poppies spilled out of one of the Tower’s windows.
More than 18,000 volunteers planted the ceramic poppies at the Tower of London. The display was a popular attraction for residents and visitors of London. More than 4 million people came to see the poppies, including Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister David Cameron. As volunteers began removing the display on November 12, the poppies were sold to the public. Money from the poppy sales was given to charities that support veterans.
Image credit: ©Tolga Akmen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
- Pictures: Tower of London Poppy Display
View a slide show of photos from the poppy display at the Tower of London.
- Tower of London Remembers: The First World War
Visit the official site of the “Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red” exhibit to learn more about it.