Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

This year marks the centenary of World War I or the Great War. We’ve all heard of the huge numbers of dead in that war but it’s terribly difficult to really grasp numbers that large.

You may already have seen photos of the display at the Great Tower of London, which gives terrible meaning to the number 888,246—the British dead in the war.

Angela, from The Silver Voice of Ireland, has posted her own pictures that capture the heart-breaking beauty of the display of 888,246 ceramic poppies, as they cascade from a window at the Great Tower of London into a sea of red. Her words also remind us that, although the display is dazzling and that the lives had beauty, the deaths were often “slow and obscene.”

Keep in mind as you look at the photos that the poppies represent only a fraction of the dead, worldwide, from the war. We would need to add 18 times the number of poppies to account for the estimated 16 million combatants and civilians who lost their lives.


I have just returned from a short trip to London, England,where we  lived for almost two decades before returning to Ireland. London is a city that I love and I look forward to each return visit. This year marks the centenary of the start of the First World War which has been commemorated in the most astonishing way at the historic Tower of London.

image The ‘Weeping Window’ the source of the wave of poppies that will fill the moat

Some decades ago, when I worked  in the banking area in the City of London, summer lunchtime would be spent sitting on the grass looking down at the Tower and enjoying the sunshine. We happily munched on our ham and mustard  or cheese and pickle sandwiches while enjoying the historic view and discussing the gruesome executions that took place just yards from where we dined! The Tower itself dates back to…

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14 thoughts on “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

  1. Thanks for that. I have asked if I too can re-blog this post. I wish we had been able to make the trip to see these poppies: they seem to have moved everyone who has seen them

  2. The red poppies create such a vivid reminder of all the lives that were lost (and when I think about how they only represent a fraction of the total makes it even more powerful).

  3. I waited until today (Nov. 11) to read this. The horrific toll WWI took on England’s young men goes a long way toward explaining why British politicians kept trying to appease Hitler. Paul Fussell’s book, “The Great War and Modern Memory” helped me try to wrap my head around the incredible losses.

    • I’ve avoided reading too much about wars–so sad and haunting–but I realize I should really do more to try and understand what has happened to shape the world we live in. I’ve read some, in the past year, about the American Revolution, and have found the knowledge has changed my feelings about being American. I need to continue, and learn more about the world wars (and the Civil War, but that one seems the worst at all, somehow . . .)

  4. I watched via BBC the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge placing some of the first poppies. It has been fascinating to keep track of the development of the memorial. Yesterday, I watched, again via BBC, the placing of the final poppy by a 13 year old cadet. Even on TV it was a moving sight. Perhaps the saddest thing for me was hearing the BBC announcer answer viewers’ questions asking “why was the poppy chosen” or ‘ what is the significance of the poppy?” It is good that people want to know, to discover, but I am sad that this part of our history and the poppy are no longer inherent in our knowledge base. We no longer have people who remember WW1; some of us remember people who were in WW1; but soon there will only be people who wonder and ask questions about it. Lest We Forget and Remembrance take on entirely new meanings for those who were never there.

    • It’s like the last verse of “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”:

      And now every April I sit on my porch
      And I watch the parade pass before me
      And I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march
      Reliving old dreams of past glory
      And the old men march slowly, all bent, stiff and sore
      The forgotten heroes from a forgotten war
      And the young people ask, “What are they marching for?”
      And I ask myself the same question . . .

  5. I went to see the poppies a couple of weeks back. I thought I was prepared for the sight of them…..I wasn’t ! It’s staggering, powerful imagery I will never forget. My only concern was that some of the crowds visiting seemed to have no idea what it represented and worse still saw it as yet another opportunity to take a selfie….”jumping and laughing for the camera with the poppies as a backdrop!….I was shocked by their ignorance and lack of respect.

    • I’m so glad you got to see it–and I’m not surprised by your reaction! The presentation was a brilliant way to allow people to grasp the enormity of those numbers. But, really, how disturbing that others were so thoughtless and dopey–I’m pretty much over the whole concept of selfies.

  6. I hope the world remains peaceful in future. What a waste of precious life that was. Where do they take all those ceramic poppies once they are removed? They are so many and they look beautiful indeed. Thanks for sharing!

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