The Ancestry team at the Tower of London
Remembrance Day has passed and many of you observed a moment of silence to honour the memory of those that sacrificed so much so that we would know peace. Memorials and monuments were attended in vast numbers. The crowds that gathered to remember were bonded in collective appreciation for the brave men and women who had paid the ultimate price in their service to their country.
People of every creed and race gathered together to remember. Among the crowds there was one common feature, one common symbol – the poppy. During World War One the battlefields were scarred and devastated. It seemed as though nature had given up in the face of such tragedy. The landscape was littered with the bodies of the fallen.
It was here in the seemingly barren earth that the poppy flourished. To the soldiers they must have symbolized the blood of their brothers and friends. It may have offered hope to those brave men who wondered if they may ever return to their families; a sign that new life is possible no matter the circumstances.
In 1915, Lt Col John McCrae, after losing his friend at Ypres, wrote the now famous poem In Flanders Fields.
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.
To mark the centenary of World War One, the Tower of London created an installation of 888,246 ceramic poppies. The installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red was created in the moat area and each poppy represents a British fatality during World War One. We at the Ancestry London office went to see this installation. When faced with the stark reality of so many lives lost, so many families missing loved ones, we were deeply moved by the reality of what war means for so many.
That is why we wear the poppy.
Lest we forget.