WWI centenary commemorations at the Tower of London
First World War centenary
In 2014 the Tower of London marked the centenary of the outbreak of The First World War (WWI) with the commemorative art installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, which saw the moat filled with thousands of ceramic poppies.
In 2018 the Tower once again became a site of commemoration, marking 100 years since the end of WWI with Beyond the Deepening Shadow. The nightly candle lighting ceremony in the moat was led by the Yeoman Warders and created a circle of light radiating from the Tower as a symbol of remembrance.
Both commemorative events at the Tower were part of the world-wide, First World War centenary commemorations that began on 28 July 2014 and ended on 11 November 2018.
Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red
The major art installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London marked one hundred years since the first full day of Britain's involvement in the First World War.
Created by artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, 888,246 ceramic poppies progressively filled the Tower's famous moat between July and November 2014.
21,688 people volunteered to install the poppies. Each poppy represented a British military fatality during the war.
Poppies fill the Tower moat
The poppies encircled the Tower, creating not only a spectacular display visible from all around the Tower, but also a location for personal reflection.
The scale of the installation was intended to reflect the magnitude of such an important centenary and create a powerful visual commemoration.
Each day in the moat at sunset, names of 180 Commonwealth troops killed during the war were read out as part of a Roll of Honour, followed by the Last Post.
Members of the public nominated names for the Roll of Honour using a weekly ‘first come, first served’ nomination system to be read the following week in this nightly ceremony.
A view of the ceramic poppies, including "Weeping Window", one of three designed elements alongside 'Wave'' and ''Over the Top''. The design intended to give the poppies the appearance of flowing out of the Tower itself, rippling across the moat.
The artwork's title, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, came from a poem written by an unknown WWI soldier from Derbyshire who died on the Western Front. The poem begins: "The blood swept lands and seas of red, Where angels dare to tread.'' Artist Paul Cummins found the poem alongside the soldier's unsigned will amongst records in Derbyshire.
Yeoman Serjeant Crawford Butler, the Tower of London's longest serving Yeoman Warder, places the first of over 800,000 ceramic poppies in the moat. The last poppy was planted on Remembrance Day, 11 November 2014, by Harry Hayes, a 13-year-old cadet from the Combined Cadet Force.
The red ceramic poppies were hand-made in Paul Cummins's studio in Derbyshire and a ceramic factory in Stoke-on-Trent. The poppies were placed in the moat by a team of 21,688 volunteers. After 11 November, a team of 8,000 volunteers began the process of removing the poppies.
Installation artist Tom Piper at work placing some of the ceramic poppies that appeared around the Tower of London over the summer of 2014. Tom Piper and the Yeoman Warders of the Tower oversaw the installation of the poppies by a team of volunteers.
Visitors looking at the display of over 800,000 ceramic poppies, including the ''Wave", a free-standing twisted metal sculpture covered in poppies, which curled over the main causeway into the Tower. ''Wave'' was one of three designed elements which added movement to the installation, giving the ceramic poppies the appearance of flowing into the moat.
Yeoman Warder Andrew Merry calling a roll of honour in the Tower moat. Everyday, between 1 September to 10 November, the names of 180 Commonwealth troops, nominated by members of the public, were read aloud by a Yeoman Warder or guest speaker, followed by the ''Last Post'' bugle call.
Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry walking through the poppies on the day of the installations opening. HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh made an Official visit to view the work, as did Prime Minister David Cameron MP and his wife Samantha Cameron.
The making of the poppies
All of the 888,246 ceramic poppies were handmade by a team of artists and people with links to the British Armed Forces.
Paul Cummins, artist and creator of the installation, oversaw the making of the poppies, which took place in a large industrial space in Derby - a town with a rich industrial history, reflecting the artist's desire to make the poppies using techniques that would have been used one hundred years ago.
The role of the Yeoman Warders
The Yeoman Warders played an important part in the installation of the poppies in the moat and their involvement had personal significance - each member of the Yeoman Body has served in one of the British Armed Forces.
A site of remembrance and reflection
The Tower of London has a unique place in the history of WWI. On the outbreak of war, many men formed battalions with their friends, known as PALS battalions.
The Tower of London was involved in the formation of one of the first of the friends battalions, with many regiments training at the Tower before making their way to the Western Front.
Five million people from countries around the world travelled to the Tower of London to see the poppies.
A special dedications page was created in honour of a loved one who may have previously served in the military or those who were still engaged in military service.
Beyond the Deepening Shadow: The Tower Remembers
In November 2018, thousands of flames were lit in the moat of the Tower of London to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.
This new installation, created by Designer Tom Piper and Sound Artist Mira Calix, saw the moat lit with thousands of individual flames; a public act of remembrance for the lives of the fallen, honouring their sacrifice.
Members of the public were invited to the Tower of London to see the installation evolve each night, and to join in a public act of commemoration.
Lighting the first flame
Each evening, over the course of four hours, the Tower moat became illuminated by individual flames. The Yeoman warders, themselves all distinguished former servicemen and women, ceremonially lit the first flame.
A powerful symbol of remembrance
In a moving ritual, a team of volunteers lit the rest of the installation, gradually creating a circle of light, radiating from the Tower as a powerful symbol of remembrance.
The unfolding visual spectacle was accompanied by a specially-commissioned sound installation; a sonic exploration of the shifting tide of political alliances, friendship, love and loss in war.
Artist Mira Calix created a new choral work for the installation, One lighted look for me, with words from the War Poet, Mary Borden’s Sonnets to a Soldier.
The Tower Moat, showing Yeoman Warder Moira Cameron lighting an Armistice torch at the "Beyond the Deepening Shadow" public event
The Tower Moat, showing Yeoman Warders (L-R) Lawrence Watts, Simon Dodd, Bill Callaghan and Moira Cameron fulfilling their ceremonial duty at the Beyond the Deepening Shadow public event.
The lighting of the flames took place over the course of four hours each evening, with the Tower moat gradually illuminated by individual flames.
They do not know that in this shadowed place It is your light they see upon my face.
Mary Borden, Sonnets to a Soldier.
Beyond the Deepening Shadow: The Tower Remembers
In this film, we look back on Beyond the Deepening Shadow: The Tower Remembers and reflect on the commemorations.
Remembering WWI: The 2014-2018 Centenary commemorations
The First World War was the first global conflict, 'A war to end all wars.' Over 30 countries joined the war between 1914-1918.
Fighting occurred not only in Europe on the 'Western Front', but in south eastern and eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
An estimated 37 million people, military personnel and civilians, lost their lives.
The 2014-2018 First World War Centenary commemorations were a world-wide act of remembrance to honour and remember those who lost their lives in the Great War.
Why do we remember WWI?
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