On July 17 this year a tide of 888,246 ceramic poppies, one for each British and colonial fatality during World War I, began to seep across the dry moat at the Tower of London. The installation that has appeared in the intervening months commemorates the centenary of the Great War. During the conflict, the Tower’s moat was used to swear in the 1,600-plus men who had enlisted by the end of August 1914 at the recruitment station in the City, forming the 10th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, the so called ‘stockbrokers battalion’ which fought for the duration of the war. Created in collaboration with artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper, the poppies are a dramatic spectacle, encircling the London landmark and serving as a backdrop to a programme of commemorative performances and events. Each evening at twilight large crowds gather to listen as the names of 180 of those who died in combat are read aloud and a lone bugler plays the Last Post. The poppies have been sold to raise funds for service charities, and, after Armistice Day, the red tide will slowly recede.
The 'wave' section of the installation – the section which sees the flowers spilling over the wall of the Tower – will remain on site until the end of November. The rest of the poppies will be carefully removed in the days following November 11, ready to go on a tour of UK cities and rural locations that will start in 2015.