The war to end all wars…and the Brits honor, with 888,246 ceramic red poppies, those who perished in WWI !!!


Hugh Paxton’s Blog should strategically have posted this on, or just before, Armistice Day (Nov 11). I knew the Tower was going to be special but I was away from Bangkok at the time and internet was dysfunctional.

I saw a brief article in The Nation newspaper but it was b/w which rather defeats the point. Brigitte has just sent this through, for which I thank her. Almost a month later than the anniversary but definitely worth forwarding. In my heart every day has a minute for remembrance. And I’m glad Brigitte feels the same way.

I remember my great Uncle Harold. He was a Lake District damson farmer (damsons are an increasingly rare and commercially neglected plum-like fruit, a bit bitter, but make unsurpassed jam). He had a lovely old orchard full of gnarled trees covered in moss and a rambling mysterious hill farm called Dodd’s How not far from Windermere.

Like so many others he answered the call and sailed for Flanders. He didn’t write any poetry. But he did keep diaries. I found them along with his photo “fading to yellow in a brown leather frame” to quote the magnificent if utterly heart wrenching Pogues song about Willie McBride.

I read all his writing. He virtually never mentioned the war. In fact the only reference to the horrors he was enduring was one entry. “It was bad today in the wood.” The other jottings were about the weather (at home), and short thoughts about England. After several years of mud, slaughter and misery, he was shot and invalided home. He resumed his damsons and limped about his farm until his peaceful death at a ripe old age. Poppies are symbolic of the trenches. The flowers grow well in disturbed ground. And you can’t get much more disturbing than a four year exchange of howitzer shells, mortars, air raids and mine craters.

Every year prior to the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month most British wear lapel poppies made of stiff paper with green plastic stalks in memory. The money raised goes to charities that help ex-servicemen, young or old. I always wear one. Islamic radicals (obscenely granted British citizenship despite their clearly stated objectives of overthrowing my country’s laws, heritage, culture and installing a Caliphate in Whitehall) tend to set fire to poppy wreaths. Sensitive. A real vote winner! Hearts and minds lost with every scorching poppy and every desecrated memory. But this post isn’t about these spiritual, intellectual and moral vermin. It is about remembering the brave, the cowards who did their duty and were all the braver for that, and the ghastly, pointless mess of endurance and duty.

When I think of both World Wars, I think of the men and women on both sides of the sandbags and mud and horrible wire.

Harold on his “bad” day was facing young Germans of his same age having an equally bad day. They probably weren’t damson farmers (plums perhaps or peaches or black cherries), had never seen the glorious lakes of Westmorland, but Harold hadn’t seen the German lakes.

Neither had the option.

I am glad London did what it did, and again thanks to Brigitte for sending this on. It is a wonderful display of poppies! Utterly!

Poppies will always be a special flower for me. But the true plant that stirs my emotions is also blood-red. Or at least that is the colour of its fruit! The damson. Harold’s orchard still thrives. And apparently the jam is as good as ever it was.

Over to Brigitte!

Cheers from Bangkok!


From: Brigitte Alpers []
Sent: Friday, December 05, 2014 2:34 PM

Subject: Fw: Fwd: The war to end all wars…and the Brits honor, with 888,246 ceramic red poppies, those who perished in WWI !!!

The enormity of the devastation and loss of life in all of the wars [Civil, Korean, Vietnam, I , II, and Middle East] is so difficult to comprehend. It must give us pause. Memorials such as this are great reminders and this one seems the most poignant!

Well done, Brits!

World War I, known at the time as the Great War, was thought to be the war that would end all future wars. All sides suffered an incredibly high number of needless deaths, and the war devastated an entire generation. In fact, the sheer amount of destruction and death has only been eclipsed by World War II. Since it ended, all countries involved have held memorials to remember their fallen dead who sacrificed their lives for the good of their country. This fact is all the more so in England, where nearly a million people lost their lives.

What they’ve done to commemorate their fallen soldiers is truly beautiful, while also helping us understand the true scope of these soldiers’ sacrifice. Even a hundred years later, we should not forget their incredible acts of heroism.

The moat that surrounds the Tower of London has long stood empty and dry. But now, what may look like gushing blood from its very walls, is actually something beautiful.

This summer, the moat has been filled with 888,246 red ceramic poppies, one for each British and Colonial soldier who perished during World War I.

For the past few weeks, a team of 150 volunteers has been placing red ceramic poppies one by one around the Tower.

The last poppy will be symbolically planted on the last day of the installation: November 11, Armistice Day.

Each evening, the Last Post will be sounded and a selection of names of the dead read out loud. It’s stunning and sobering commemoration that befits the Great War.

Regardless of why their countries went to war, we should never forget the selfless acts of these brave men.

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