Tower of London Poppy Display

To mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, the Royal British Legion enlisted artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper to create an evolving instillation, poignantly named Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red. Thousands of volunteers would help fill the Tower of London’s moat with 888, 246 ceramic poppies to represent every soldier that fell in the conflict.

The instillation process began on August 5th and was scheduled to finish on November 11th. However, due popular demand, last week the Prime Minister, David Cameron, revealed that the display would remain at the tower until the end of November. We asked our panel what they thought about the display and whether they had the opportunity to see it. We also wanted to find out whether they had bought a poppy this year and, if so, why they felt it was important.

Almost everyone agreed that the display was a fantastic way to commemorate the First World War and that it was as provocative and harrowing as it was beautiful. Many of our panel felt that by creating a visual representation the Royal British Legion had really been able to illuminate the tragic amount of people who died.

‘Respectful and courteous display that does make you think and remember what happened and how many people died’ (Thomas, 37, Liverpool)

‘I think it’s one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen, it’s visual, it’s tangible, it’s beautiful’(Nikki, 44, Sutton)

‘It was a good way for young people to actually really try and comprehend how many people actually died in the war’ (139212)

One member of the panel, a poppy collector for the cause, said that the Tower instillation had generated more interest in the First World War and increased the British Legion’s annual fund raised by a significant amount.

A number of our panel expressed a desire for the Poppy display to remain at the Tower for even longer than the extended time, with some suggesting that it should become a annual display or even a permanent feature in the moat. This opinion was particularly popular amongst the members of our panel who unfortunately had not been able to visit the poppies.

‘I wish they’d keep it there permanently’ (Sam, 68, Port Glasgow)

‘It would be nice also if they were there all year to give more people the chance to go and see them’ (Jennifer, 23, Manchester)

However, a selection of respondents felt that keeping the poppies forever would undermine the power of the instillation.

‘The reason we should get rid of it is because it represents all those people who went to war and never came back’ (Janine, 34, Chorley)

The majority of the panel claimed they had bought at least one poppy this year and endeavour to buy one every year. Several had even invested in one of the ceramic poppies from the display. One respondent said he had auctioned one for a staggering price of £750, all of which he donated to the Royal British Legion. There were, of course, a few exceptions. These members of the panel stated that although they think it is important to honour the lives of those who died, they did buy a poppy because they were pacifists.

The responses established that people believe it is incredibly important to remember the First World War. Most people believe it important to think about the sacrifice the dead made for their country. Others noted how recognising the brutally and tragedy of the war enables us, as a country, to learn from our mistakes and move towards peace.

‘The only way we are ever going to learn a lesson from war is if we remember how horrific it was’ (Esther, 19, London)

‘World War 1 was a very harsh war and we had a lot of men who fell, so it’s important to remember them’ (Ashley 38, London)

It was also mentioned that the poppies raise awareness of other wars and conflicts all around the world, both past and present, and encourage people to think about those who fought and are still fighting.

Generally, it seems that people felt that the Royal British Legion’s poppy display was a brilliant idea that brought the nation together to mourn and remember those who loss their lives in the First World War.

Picture courtesy of the Royal British Legion