Last week marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War and you'll find that some of London's most iconic landmarks, as well as museums, churches and organisations are all remembering 'The Glorious Dead' as is inscribed on the Cenotaph in Whitehall.
If you visit the Tower of London in the next couple of months you can watch volunteers placing red ceramic poppies in to the dry moat that surrounds the historic building. In case you're unaware, the poppy was one of the only plants to grow on the battlefields of northern France and Flanders after the ground had been ravaged by conflict. In those fields, unimaginable numbers of soldiers lay buried beneath where the poppies grew after the war had ended, and are still found by farmers to this day. The red poppy has become a memorial symbol to the fallen. The incredibly powerful and poignant installation at the Tower of London is called 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red', created by ceramic artist Paul Cumming and stage designer Tom Piper.
I took some photos last week of the work in progress, but by the time the whole piece is finished in November, 888,246 poppies will have been added; each one representing a British or Colonial soldier who died during the First World War. It will be quite a sight. Each ceramic poppy can be purchased for £25, the proceeds of which will be spread amongst the six service charities.
St Paul's cathedral, another of London's famous landmarks has chosen to mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War in a very different way. On display, in the cathedral until 2018, mirroring the duration of the Great War, is an altar frontal. Many of the men who returned from the battlefields, did so with terrible wounds and afflictions; scarred by the experiences in the trenches. One of the many forms of rehabilitation was embroidery, as it involved a steady hand and concentration which men suffering from 'shell shock' invariably lacked. 138 men from the UK, Australia, South Africa and Canada who were recovering in a number of different hospitals all contributed small sections of embroidery to form what became the St Paul's cathedral altar frontal. 'Lest We Forget', the title given to the display can be seen at the cathedral over the next four years, and on the St Paul's cathedral website, you can find information about each of the remarkable men that contributed.
Also, having been closed for most of the year, the Imperial War Museum in south London has just reopened along with their new First World War galleries, telling the story of the war through the lives of those that experienced it, both on the front line and at home, so if you are visiting and have an interest in this particular period of history, you should perhaps add it to your itinerary.
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