Towering Memorial

WORLD

The poppy exhibition at the Tower of London has become a national sensation, with some 4 million people expected to have seen it by the time the last of the poppies is planted on Nov. 11, the day the war ended in 1918. (Washington Post)

Use our resources to better understand Armistice Day.

Teachers, scroll down of a short list of key resources in our “Teachers Toolkit.”

Discussion Ideas

Poppies begin to surround the Tower of London in August 2014. Photograph by Caryl-Sue, National Geographic

Ceramic poppies begin to surround the Tower of London in August 2014.
Photograph by Caryl-Sue, National Geographic

  • Look at the space in the image above. It was taken in August 2014, before “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red,” the breathtaking public art exhibit at the Tower of London, was complete. What was the original use of the green space where the poppies are, between the Tower of London (the stone building on the left) and the area where the photo was taken—where millions of tourists gather to view the installation?
    • The broad area around the heavily walled castle was its moat. The moat is about 50 meters (160 feet) wide. The Tower of London sits on the banks of the Thames, and when the castle was constructed its moat was filled with water from the river. Over the centuries, the moat became filled with silt. In the 19th century, the moat was drained entirely.

 

By November 2014, the Tower's moat is filled with poppies. Photograph by The Land, courtesy Wikimedia. (CC BY-SA 4.0)

By November 2014, the Tower’s moat is filled with poppies.
Photograph by The Land, courtesy Wikimedia. (CC BY-SA 4.0)

  • The title of the exhibit at the Tower of London is “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.” Why do you think that title was chosen?
    • “Blood swept lands and seas of red” is a line from a poem written by an unknown World War I soldier. Read the whole poem here.
    • The bright red color of the poppies symbolizes blood and the sacrifice of service members during World War I. It also recalls the executions that took place in the Tower of London. Read about the Tower’s most famous execution here.
    • The “sea” echoes the original use of the space, the tower’s river-moat.

 

The Battle of Verdun, in northeastern France, was the longest sustained conflict of World War I. The battle, which lasted 300 days and cost more than 300,000 French and German lives in 1916, was also one of the bloodiest of “The Great War.” The landscape around Verdun was still devastated more than 10 years after the battle, when this photo was taken. Read more about the lingering environmental impact of World War I here. Photograph by Jules Gervais Courtellemont, National Geographic

The Battle of Verdun, in northeastern France, was the longest sustained conflict of World War I. The battle, which lasted 300 days and cost more than 300,000 French and German lives in 1916, was also one of the bloodiest of “The Great War.” The landscape around Verdun was still devastated more than 10 years after the battle, when this photo was taken. Read more about the lingering environmental impact of World War I here.
Photograph by Jules Gervais Courtellemont, National Geographic

  • The Washington Post article says “the Great War is not on the minds of many Americans, [in the United Kingdom] it remains profoundly relevant.” Why?
    • World War I (and World War II) had a much more devastating impact on Europe than the United States and North America. Although no WWI battles were fought on the island of Great Britain itself, the empire endured more than three million casualties. (Casualties include military and civilian deaths, as well as the wounded and missing.) Russia and the Axis powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary suffered more than twice those casualties. The United States suffered more than 300,000 casualties.
    • World War I is still a controversial subject in Britain. The reasons for the war, the way it was fought, and how it should be remembered have been the subjects of contentious debate in British classrooms this centenary year. (And anyone who has not seen the fourth season of Blackadder, the WWI-set Britcom mentioned in the article? What are you waiting for?)

 

A soldier of the Afghan National Army (ANA) wears a poppy out of respect for Remembrance Day and his own fallen comrades. Photograph by Sgt. Steve Blake, Royal Logistic Corps (British Army)

A soldier of the Afghan National Army (ANA) wears a poppy out of respect for Remembrance Day and his own fallen comrades.
Photograph by Sgt. Steve Blake, Royal Logistic Corps (British Army)

  • Why do you think the artists who crated Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red chose poppies as their theme?
    • The remembrance poppy (like the one worn by the Afghan soldier above) is a symbol of Veterans Day (also known as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day) in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The simple, stylized, red-and-black flower is worn to commemorate military casualties of war.
    • The remembrance poppy is so popular, it has inspired variations. The white poppy symbolizes pacifism. The purple poppy symbolizes the sacrifices of animals during war. (Read more about animal veterans here.)
    • Thousands of people have placed paper remembrance poppies and tributes to loved ones killed in action around the Tower of London. Read about the tributes here.
    • The flower is a symbol of World War I. One of the plants that grew in the devastated landscape of World War I battlefields was the red poppy, nicknamed the “corn poppy” because it often grows on the edges of grain fields.
    • Canadian veteran John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields” is one of the most famous and lasting descriptions of the war. Read the poem here. An American schoolteacher established the remembrance poppy as a lasting symbol of respect for veterans. Read about her effort here.

 

Ceramic poppies spill from the "Weeping Window" at the Tower of London. Photograph by Caryl-Sue, National Geographic

Ceramic poppies spill from the “Weeping Window” at the Tower of London.
Photograph by Caryl-Sue, National Geographic

 

Read more about Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red here. Parts of the exhibit will remain at the Tower of London through the end of November. Photograph by Caryl-Sue, National Geographic

Read more about Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red here. Parts of the exhibit will remain at the Tower of London through the end of November.
Photograph by Caryl-Sue, National Geographic

  • Despite the tremendous popularity of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the exhibit will be (mostly) dismantled this week. Why was November 11 chosen for the final day of the exhibit?
    • On November 11, 1918, at 11:11 a.m.—the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month—Germany signed an armistice agreement, officially ending World War I. Read more about the armistice here.
    • It’s an ephemeral exhibit, never meant to be permanent. This itself signifies the short life of the victims, and how quickly their sacrifice can be forgotten.

 

Learn more about how the poppies were created.

 

  • The Historic Royal Palaces’ Learning Team asks three questions. Can you answer them?
    • Why should we remember?
    • Why is 100 years significant?
    • How do you want to remember?
    • This video might help.

 

TEACHERS TOOLKIT

Washington Post: Tower of London’s stunning poppy installation creates national sensation

Nat Geo This Day in Geographic History: 1918: ‘The Great War’ Ends

Nat Geo glossary:
moat
ceramic
symbolize
casualty
Commonwealth of Nations
ephemeral
armistice

Historic Royal Palaces: Tower of London—Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

3 responses to “Towering Memorial

  1. By the way, Canadian John McCrae who penned the poem In Flanders Fields did not live to become a veteran. He died of his wounds within days of writing his immortal poem.

    Like

  2. This is another article which connects art and history. It is important for students to see the connection of the present to the past. Thanks also for the early (August) photos and the later (November) photos!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s