Before you read Carla’s story, do remember to give generously when you see the British Legion representatives collecting…
You’ll find these handsome chaps in Tescos Windsor… Ian tells me the public have been very generous and just his team are set to raise a good few thousand pounds… well done if you’ve put a quid or two in he boxes.
There is much debate at the moment about the removal of the poppy art installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.
I shouldn’t think the artist, Paul Cummins who came up with the idea of celebrating 100 years since World War One with a special poppy display around the Tower of London, could have envisaged the display would prove so popular and such an amazing tourist attraction.
I recently had the privilege of seeing the display up close and can report that it was one of the most moving days of my life. It brought home to me what my Grandpa had experienced, being gassed on the Somme and seeing his comrades killed in vast numbers. He mourned them every day of his life, especially on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” – Armistice day, the day when the guns finally became silent.
Ironically that was my father’s birthday and he bore the brunt of my Grandpa’s sadness on a day which should have been cause for celebration. The day I visited the Tower of London display to pay my respects and see a poppy I had purchased, I brought my Grandpa’s special meritorious medal awarded for bravery on the Somme, alongside a special Arctic Star which I have recently secured on behalf of my late father.
Just looking at the poppies helped me mourn both of them as well as the many poor souls who lost their lives in the ‘Great War’ and the many other wars since. It made me think of the tragedy of young lives lost and the hope that there would one day be peace. I also enjoyed special impromptu plays inside the Tower highlighting the young people joining up and the controversies of WW1.
For many years I felt guilty about even having a poppy because it used to have a black button in the centre bearing the name Haig – referring to Field Marshall Douglas Haig who set up the poppy fund for veterans of all conflicts. My grandpa felt aggrieved towards the General and roared his dislike – calling him “Butcher Haig”. It is one of the earliest memories I have.
I gather other soldiers who mourned the two million British casualties were equally aggrieved of – the class ridden military of the day – brilliantly highlighted in Black Adder. I think even my Grandpa would approve of the display in the Tower which vividly brings home the futility and tragedy of wars. I think he would want the display to remain because it has captured the public interest and has even interested young people who would normally ignore the Cenotaph war memorial, not because of lack of interest but because they do not know what it is.
Somehow, seeing thousands of poppies on display in one location brings home how many died – much better than photographs or film or a lump of memorial stone.
What struck me was that although the Tower was heaving with visitors, they were subdued and respectful of the scene and those around them. There was mutual respect no matter where the tourists came from and admiration for the artist who apparently is determined that the art installation be removed on the chosen day. If I am asked if I want my poppy to stay instead of receiving it in the post, I will say – let it stay, let us always remember those who died in the Great War and continue to die.
Carla Delaney Communications
Business Writer Award Winner
Power of One Events Limited