Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

Since August 5th the dry moat at the Tower of London has progressively turned into a sea of red, filled with hundreds of thousands of ceramic poppies to mark one hundred years since the first full day of Britain’s involvement in the First World War.

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The art installation, called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, is the creation of ceramic artist Paul Cummins and by November 11th it will feature 888,246 ceramic poppies, each representing the British and Colonial soldiers killed during the war. The poppies were hand-made by 50 potters at Cummins’ Derby studio using only techniques available to potters during the First World War, meaning each poppy will be individual and unique.

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Mr Cummins, who usually makes ceramic flowers as garden ornaments, explained that he took the title of the installation from a will made in the trenches by an unnamed soldier from his own home town of Derby. ‘Reading through an archive of the wills I came across one written by a man who said everyone he knew had been killed. He wrote of ‘blood swept lands and seas of red, where angels dare to tread.’It read like a poem and it just seemed to fit,’ says the artist.

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The setting is by stage designer Tom Piper, who has calculated 50 poppies per square metre would be necessary to fill the 16 acres of moat: ‘When you think of it in terms of pure logistics it can get very mechanical, but when you consider that each of these poppies will represent a life it becomes very poignant.’

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Piper said: ‘We worked out that it would take one person three and a half years to install all the poppies, so we are using 150 volunteers who will do it in two weeks.’ Each of the poppies will be available to buy for £25 once they have been taken down in November. If all of them are sold it will raise £15 million to be distributed between six armed forces charities including Help For Heroes and the Royal British Legion.

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General the Lord Dannatt, Constable of the Tower of London says ‘the Tower played its part in the war, and 1,600 men swore their oath of allegiance in the moat in August 1914, so it is a fitting location. I hope this will be the iconic image of this summer.’

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Yeoman Warder Crawford Butler lays the first of 888,246 ceramic poppies in the dry moat of the Tower of London, as part of the art installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red marking the centenary of the first World War

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Red ceramic poppies that form part of the art installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ are seen at the Tower of London. The evolving art installation, which will be completed on November 11, will create a commemoration for the centenary of World War One.

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Red ceramic poppies that form part of the art installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ are seen at the Tower of London. The evolving art installation, which will be completed on November 11, will create a commemoration for the centenary of World War One.

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The Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry

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Joss Stone visits the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation. The Grammy and Brit Award singer has teamed up with Jeff Beck to record this year’s official Poppy Appeal single and also took part in a vigil running from sunrise to sunset at the start of the campaign at the Cenotaph.

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Chief Yeoman Warder Alan Kingshott looks at the display

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War Horse’s Joey and Michael Morpurgo visit the installation

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The installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ at the Tower of London commemorating the centenary of Britain’s involvement in the First World War

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