London Remembrances at the Cenotaph and the Tower of London

Posted: Nov 06 2014

Each year in November, the United Kingdom remembers the men and women who gave their lives in the two World Wars and other conflicts. As in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Londoners observe a two-minute of silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month which is the time and date when hostilities formally ended after more than four years of battle during World War I.

This year there are two major events taking place in London based around the theme of remembering those who lost their lives in past wars.

Firstly, there is the annual commemoration for the fallen on Remembrance Sunday (9th November). In London this takes place at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall. This impressive monument was designed by Edward Lutyens and is the traditional focal point for the tributes to servicemen who lost their lives in past conflicts. Thousands of people attend a march past of current and former members of the armed forces and wreaths are laid by members of the Royal Family commemorating the UK and Commonwealth servicemen who died in the two World Wars and other conflicts.

This year the Tower of London is also hosting an event marking one hundred years since the first full day of Britain's involvement in the First World War.  An art installation has been created at the Tower called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red. This features thousands of ceramic poppies pouring out of the Tower and flowing into the moat surrounding it. Each flower represents one of the British and Commonwealth soldiers who died during World War 1. The display is proving to be a huge success with vast numbers of visitors having already visited it since it opened in August. In total, more than 4 million people are expected to visit before it closes on Remembrance Day.

The ceramic artist Paul Cummins, who created it with help from stage designer Tom Piper, says that the last of 888,246 poppies will be planted on the 11th of November and volunteers will start to take them away the next day. People who wish to visit the giant artwork are being advised to do so after six o’clock in the evening because of the numbers attending.  If you are planning to go along do note that the Tower Hill tube station will be closed for engineering works.

Whichever event you choose to attend you can be sure that the mixture of spectacle and history will leave a lasting impression. On major occasions like these London provides the perfect backdrop and a fitting tribute to all those who gave their lives that we might be free.

Above all Remembrance Week is a time of reflection and in remembering the young men and women whose names are listed on memorials it is fascinating to think that people from all walks of life and from all social classes enlisted for the “War to end all wars”. Everyone from teachers to factory workers, from accountants to dustmen were involved. It is sad to think that for many their only visit to a country other than that of their birth would be their last.   In the modern times that we are fortunate to live in, opportunities for young people to travel and safely see more of the world are available that previous generations could not have dreamed of.

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