I have been to … see the poppies at the Tower of London

Although both of us we suffering from quite bad colds, Sue and I decided yesterday morning that we would go up to the Tower of London to see the field of poppies that has been created there as a memorial to all the members of the British Armed Forces who were killed during World War I.

By way of a change we decided to go to central London by the Thames Clipper service, which runs from Woolwich Arsenal to central London at peak times in the morning and evening. (There is an all-day service from North Greenwich to the London Eye as well as several commuter routes.)

We arrived at Woolwich Arsenal Pier …

in plenty of time to catch the 9.20am service from Woolwich Arsenal to Tower Millennium. From the Pier we had a great view of the River Thames.

Beside the sight of the massive office blocks at Canary Wharf, …

… we could see the Woolwich ferries making their way backwards and forwards across the river.

We could also see – and hear – the passenger aircraft landing and taking off from London City Airport.

Bang on time, one of the Thames Clipper catamarans arrived at the Pier …

… and within a matter of minutes we were sailing through the Thames Barrier.

Our first stop was at the O2 (the old Millennium Dome) at North Greenwich.

After some more passengers had boarded the Clipper, she sailed on to her next stop – Greenwich Pier – which was just past the old Royal Naval Hospital, Greenwich.

(The building is now the main campus of Greenwich University.)

We soon left Greenwich behind us …

… and reached Tower Bridge …

… just under forty minutes after boarding the Clipper.

The advantage of disembarking at Tower Millennium was its proximity to the Tower of London, and within a matter of minutes we were able to see the poppies that have been ‘planted’ in the Tower’s moat.

The sight was truly awesome … and the poppies almost filled the moat that surrounds the Tower.

It is little wonder that this temporary memorial has attracted so many visitors. It is something that has to be seen to be really appreciated, and when the final poppies are added by 11th November, it will be truly magnificent.

For the benefit of non-UK blog readers, a short explanation about this memorial is probably helpful.

The wearing of a poppy was adopted in 1921 to commemorate soldiers who have died during the First World War. The choice was inspired by the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’, and they were first used by the American Legion to commemorate American soldiers who had died. The poppy was later adopted by military veterans’ groups in parts of the former British Empire, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The annual ‘sale’ of paper poppies has been a major source of income for the Royal British Legion in the UK. (Before 1971 it was known as the British Legion). The poppy is not ‘sold’ for a pre-set price; it is given in return for a donation made to the Royal British Legion‘s funds.

The poppies that have been ‘planted’ in the moat around the Tower of London are part of a huge art installation entitled ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’. It marks the centenary of the start of Britain’s involvement in the First World War, and it was created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins. When the installation is complete by 11th November 2014, 888,246 ceramic poppies – each of which represents a British military fatality during the war – will fill the Tower’s moat.

The poppies each cost £25.00 to ‘buy’, and the money raised will be shared equally amongst six service charities:

  • Cobseo (The Confederation of Service Charities): This confederation is dedicated to the goal of maximising the charitable support given to the Armed Forces Community through the co-operation, co-ordination, and collaboration of the organisations working in the Service Charity sector.
  • Combat Stress: The UK’s leading military charity that specialises in the care of Veterans’ mental health, treating conditions including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety.
  • Coming Home: This is the fundraising campaign for the Haig Housing Trust, which provides specially adapted homes for seriously injured and disabled Servicemen, and the general needs housing of ex-Servicemen and their families.
  • Help for Heroes: This charity inspires, enables, and supports those who have made sacrifices on our behalf in order to help them to achieve their full potential.
  • The Royal British Legion: This is the UK’s largest Armed Forces charity, and it provides care and support to all members of the British Armed Forces – past and present – and their families.
  • SSAFA (Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Airmen’s Families Association): This charity provides lifelong support to anyone who is currently serving or has ever served in the Royal Navy, British Army or Royal Air Force and their families.

18 Comments on “I have been to … see the poppies at the Tower of London”

  1. Saw them on Sunday – magnificent sight.

  2. Oh, and all of the poppies have been sold. All 888,246 of them!

  3. Xaltotun of Python,

    We decided to go to see the poppies once the schools had gone back after half term. We thought that it would be easier and less crowded … and it was.

    All the best,


  4. Xaltotun of Python,

    By my estimation, that should raise over £22,000,000 for the charities.

    All the best,


  5. Those are stunning views of the installation, Bob. I imagine it's quite a humbling site when you're there?

  6. Pendragon Without,

    As I wrote, it is truly awe-inspiring … and although the crowds are not silent, you are conscious that people are talking quietly.

    Whilst I was there, I was put in mind of two members of my Masonic Lodge – Major Henry King Nicholls and Lance Corporal Sydney Crapp – who were both killed and whose bodies were never found. There was a poppy there for both of them.

    All the best,


  7. Poppy installation is amazing,I wish I had been there to see it …

  8. Tradgardmastare,

    The sheer number of poppies is more impressive than a the photographs can convey. It is such a great pity that the installation is only accessible to people who can travel to London.

    All the best,


  9. Stryker says:

    My feeling on seeing the poppies was one of shock at the sheer scale of the thing (and hence the WW1 casualties). It is hard to mentally visualize 900,000 people but this physical representation brings it home in a very real way. My wife has bought me one of the poppies and I'm looking forward to receiving it!

  10. Well, this is how I summed it up:

    One of the things my wife and I did this week was visit London for a couple of days. That couple of days including going to see on of the most poignant sights I think I've ever seen.
    OK, they're not due to complete it until the 11th of November but…
    888,246 ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower of London. One poppy for every British and Colonial soldier killed in WW1.
    There aren't many things that I would put under the heading of 'see this if you can.' This sight gets close to the top of the list. We were lucky in the sense we first went in the evening, next day we went early morning – rest of the time, it's crowded out so much they even closed the nearest tube station.


  11. Stryker,

    You have summed up the impact of seeing the poppies extremely well. It was shocking and awe-inspiring.

    My wife and I had hoped to buy a poppy, but they had all gone by the time we got out act together.

    All the best,


  12. Xaltotun of Python,

    My wife and I have been following the creation of the installation thanks to the Metropolitan Police. Their helicopters have taken photographs of the installation every day, and they have been tweeting them every morning. We have watched the whole thing slowly grow day-by-day.

    I totally agree that it is a 'must see' event … and it sounds as if you went at times when it was not too crowded.

    All the best,


  13. Fitz-Badger says:

    What an excellent display! Must be something to see in person.
    I hope you and your wife get over your colds quickly! I contracted a cold in mid-October and I'm still getting over it.

  14. Fitz-Badger,

    The impact of seeing this installation up close is very difficult to describe. Awesome, humbling, impressive, thought-provoking are terms that spring to mind … but all seem rather inadequate.

    Thanks for asking about how my wife and I are feeling, Sue and I are still suffering with our colds, but we are trying to cope as best we can. I hope that ours does not persist as long as yours has … and I hope your recovery is continuing and that you will be back to normal as soon as possible.

    All the best,


  15. airhead says:

    Great pictures Bob, I was lucky enough to see them last week.

    As you say very difficult to put into words, the best i can do is to say it made me feel very proud to be British in an understated British kind of way.

    All the best


  16. Airhead,

    'Proud to be British in an understated British kind of way' is a good way to sum up the sort of feeling that the poppy installation engendered in my wife and I when we went up to the Tower.

    All the best,


  17. Wow the poppies are awe inspiring!

  18. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

    It is a sight that I will always remember.

    All the best,


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