Tower of London’s “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” supports military charities

The Tower of London ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ commemorative art installation. Image courtesy Historic Royal Palaces

The Tower of London ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ commemorative art installation. Image courtesy Historic Royal Palaces


Anyone impressed by the breath taking Tower of London ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red‘ commemorative art installation might be interested to know the aim is to eventually fill Tower’s moat with almost 900000 ceramic poppies – and their sale supports the work of six military charities.

This amazing project is a collaboration with Derby-based ceramic artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper, and opened this week at the Tower of London on 5th August 2014, 100 years since the first full day of Britain’s involvement in World War One.

There will be a total of 888,246 poppies which will be planted in the tower’s moat – one for each British and Colonial fatality during the war.

Volunteers began placing the poppies several weeks ago and the process will continue through the summer until a final flower is symbolically planted on November 11th.

Throughout the installation period (5th August to 11th November) at twilight, the public will be able to witness from Tower Hill terrace the names of 180 serving military killed during the First World War being read out in a roll of honour. This will be followed by the ‘Last Post’ bugle call played by a single bugler. Members of the public can nominate a name for the roll of honour using a weekly ‘first come, first served’ nomination system which will allow those with the relevant information to put a name forward for the roll of honour to be read the following week.

The scale of the installation intends to reflect the magnitude of such an important centenary. Each poppy has been hand made by Paul and his team in Derby, and will be installed in a stunning display at the Tower, filling the entire moat.

Paul’s inspiration for the installation came from the World War One poem by an unknown Soldier called “The Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red”.

The blood swept lands and seas of red,

Where angels dare to tread.

As I put my hand to reach,

As God cried a tear of pain as the angels fell,

Again and again.

As the tears of mine fell to the ground

To sleep with the flowers of red

As any be dead

My children see and work through fields of my

Own with corn and wheat,

Blessed by love so far from pain of my resting

Fields so far from my love.

It be time to put my hand up and end this pain

Of living hell. to see the people around me

Fall someone angel as the mist falls around

And the rain so thick with black thunder I hear

Over the clouds, to sleep forever and kiss

The flower of my people gone before time

To sleep and cry no more

I put my hand up and see the land of red,

This is my time to go over,

I may not come back

So sleep, kiss the boys for me

If you’re as impressed by this as I am, then you might like to know the poppies are on sale for £25 each from the Tower of London website. 10 per cent of each sale will go to six military charities.

“The poppies will encircle the iconic landmark, creating not only a spectacular display visible from all around the Tower but also a location for personal reflection,” the Tower of London’s website informs us. “The scale of the installation intends to reflect the magnitude of such an important centenary creating a powerful visual commemoration.”

By selling all of the poppies that make up the installation the aim is to raise millions of pounds which will be shared equally amongst six service charities: Combat Stress, Coming Home, Help for Heroes, the Royal British Legion, and the SSAFA.

All the military charities involved are also asking for volunteers to help with the continuing installation.

“Every now and then someone has a really fantastic idea which will hopefully catch the public’s imagination and the Blood swept Lands and Seas of Red installation is exactly that,” enthuses author Anthony Horowitz OBE, novelist and screenwriter and creater of Foyle’s War.

“I am very pleased to support Coming Home, which raises funds to build and adapt houses for our severely injured servicemen and women. There’s a poppy for every life lost in the Great War and buying one will be both an act of remembrance of the past and a mark of respect for today’s wounded heroes. Thank you for your support.”

The moat was used during the recruitment of the The 10th (‘Stockbrokers’) Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) in 1914, raised by Major the Hon. R. White at the suggestion of Sir Henry Rawlinson, Director of Recruiting. White collected names and address of those willing to serve. By the end of August 1914, more than 1600 men had been recruited at the Tower, where the Fusiliers were based and have their museum today. The Battalion suffered 2,647 casualties. By end of the war only 50 of the original 1600 ‘Ditchers’ were on active service.

The Tower also acted as a military depot throughout the period of the Great War, storing arms and munitions – and served as a symbolic, ceremonial setting-off point for regiments who had been stationed here, and 11 of the spies arrested in Britain during the First World War were executed at the Tower.

• Buy a poppy from the Tower of London website:

Find out more about volunteeringto help with the continuing installations on the Coming Home charity site

Tower of London info on installation

More on the history of the Tower of London during World War One

The art site, Colossal has more images of the installation

• Paul Cummins Site:

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