These Flowers Commemorate a Terrible Past, Let Their Image Remind Us of the Cost of War

A stark reminder of human lives lost.

In 1915, 42 year old Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote a poem entitled, "In Flanders Fields." At the time, Lt. Col. McCrae was serving as a physician and surgeon in the town of Ypres, Belgium. The poem was written a day after presiding over the funeral of a friend, Lieutenant Alex Helmer, who had been killed in the Second Battle of Ypres.

"In Flanders Fields." This monument sits at the birthplace of Lt. Col. John McCrae.

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Poppies figure predominantly in the poem, for they grew in vast numbers in the war-battered fields in Flanders, of which Ypres is a part. Since 1920, the blood-red "remembrance poppy" (Papaver rhoeas) has been a commemorative symbol of soldiers who have died in war since 1914. They are traditionally worn in the United Kingdom on Remembrance Sunday--the 2nd Sunday in November--to honor Armistice Day, which ended the First World War at 11:00 am on November 11, 1918.

To commence its commemoration of the centenary of Britain's entry into WWI, ceramic artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper are joining The Tower of London in an elaborate installation aptly titled Bloodswept Lands and Seas of Red. The installation places 888,246 ceramic poppies into the moat surrounding the tower: one for each of Britain's military dead in WWI.

The sheer size of the installation can be seen in this panoramic photo.

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888,246 ceramic poppies will eventually be placed...

For each of the 888,246 whose lives were snuffed out.

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A stunning visual reminder of the human cost of war.

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, accompanied by Prince Harry, stroll through the memorial field.

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A worker plants more poppies that seem to spill out like blood from the tower.

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This stunning image by Journal du Design on Twitter captures the visual impact of Cummins' work.

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All of the poppies are for sale, with the proceeds benefitting six charities.

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If you would like to buy a poppy, make a dedication or read more about the installation, please visit Historic Royal Places.

The exhibit runs from August 5 2014 until November 11 2014. Information may be found: here. Information about Paul Cummins' work may be found on his website.

"In Flanders Fields" by John McRae.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

SOURCE: all images labeled for reuse sourced via Google: source attribution appears beneath photos. Videos from Historic Royal Places on YouTube. Information about the exhibit from Historic Royal Places. "In Flanders Fields" by John McRae is a work in the public domain.