Last year was the 100 year anniversary of the start of WWI. Throughout Europe, celebrations and memorials of every kind were given to honor those who had died for the sake of freedom from tyranny. It was a messy war that dragged on through the mud for four years, and by the time the smoke had cleared, over 16 million lay dead and 20 million wounded. It is considered the 6th most deadly conflict in human history.
To mark the special occasion, the Tower of London filled the moat with 888,246 ceramic poppies between 17 July and 11 November. Each poppy represented a British military fatality during the war. The artist was inspired by a line in the will of a Derbyshire man who joined up in the early days of the war and died in Flanders. The man wrote: “The blood swept lands and seas of red, where angels fear to tread.” Potters hand-made each piece using techniques which were utilized by potters during WWI.
Throughout the months of display, volunteers from around the world came to plant each of the poppies. Many of them descendants from soldiers, or veterans from following wars. Even the Queen came out to pay her respects. All of the poppies were sold, raising millions to spread equally among six service charities.
Though my family sailed from England over four centuries ago, I would have loved the honor to plant one of these, to see this incredible installation, and pay my respects not just for the British, but for all who gave their lives in every terrible conflict. Knowing my love of history and all things anglophilia, my husband surprised me with a poppy. It was a strange feeling, holding it my hands. Excited and yet sad because for me to hold one meant someone had to die. It now has an honored spot on our hutch with our other collectibles. Once we get our new house, I’ll find a better more prominent place. A piece of history that I can pass down.