Bloodswept Lands and Seas of Red

Posted by on Aug 9, 2014

 The blood swept lands and seas of red, Where angels dare to tread.

As I put my hand to reach, As God cried a tear of pain as the angels fell, Again and again.

— By Anon – Unknown Soldier —

The Tower of London has strong ties with those that fought in the First World war and to mark the current centenary of the start of the war it has commissioned an art installation on a hugely impressive scale.

Deborah Shaw, Head of Creative Programming for Historic Royal Palaces describes her role, at least for this project as “bringing artists into a dialogue with the palaces”.

In this case,  the dialogue has turned into an installation involving thousands of people that is quickly becoming one of the most memorable art works the city has seen, and will continue to capture the public’s imagination until its completion on Armistice Day – November 11th.

Ceramic artist Paul Cummins and set designer Tom Piper were commissioned to bring to life the concept Cummins had of ceramic poppies steadily filling up the famous moat around the Tower “To commemorate all those great fallen heroes who lost their lives in the First World War.”

 Each poppy represents one of the fallen soldiers and each flower is unique as all 888,246 have been handmade, using traditional techniques with a minimum of machinery involved with 3 shifts of people working over a 23 hour day to get the volume of work out on time, under the watchful eye of the artist.

Olivier-Award-winning theatre designer Tom Piper has helped to bring the concept to life by designing how the poppies flow out of the Tower to fill the moat – pouring out of a bastion window, flowing down tower walls to turn the green moat into a blood red sea with over  8,000  volunteers  helping to install the poppies – “if one person planted 200 poppies a day, it would take them over 12 years to install them all”

You can get involved in the project by volunteering via the website, by buying a poppy, or just by  going along and seeing it.

The installation runs from 5 August – 11 November 2014 (Armisitce Day)

Money raised from the sales will be shared equally amongst six service charities

 Artist Paul Cummins was inspired by a line in the will he found among old records in Chesterfield, of a Derbyshire man who joined up early in the war and died in Flanders.

“I don’t know his name or where he was buried or anything about him,” Cummins said. “But this line he wrote, when everyone he knew was dead and everywhere around him was covered in blood, jumped out at me: ‘The blood-swept lands and seas of red, where angels fear to tread.’

The Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

By Anon – Unknown Soldier

The blood swept lands and seas of red,
Where angels dare to tread.
As I put my hand to reach,
As God cried a tear of pain as the angels fell,
Again and again.

As the tears of mine fell to the ground
To sleep with the flowers of red
As any be dead

My children see and work through fields of my
Own with corn and wheat,
Blessed by love so far from pain of my resting
Fields so far from my love.

It be time to put my hand up and end this pain
Of living hell, to see the people around me
Fall someone angel as the mist falls around
And the rain so thick with black thunder I hear
Over the clouds, to sleep forever and kiss
The flower of my people gone before time
To sleep and cry no more

I put my hand up and see the land of red,
This is my time to go over,
I may not come back
So sleep, kiss the boys for me

The Tower of London and the First World War


The Charities to Benefit from Sales of the Poppies:


Cobseo maximise the charitable support to the Armed Forces Community through co-operation, co-ordination and collaboration of organisations working in the Service Charity sector.

 Combat Stress

Combat Stress is the UK’s leading military charity specialising in the care of Veterans’ mental health, treating conditions including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety.

 Coming Home

Coming Home is the fundraising campaign for Haig Housing Trust, which provides specially adapted homes for seriously injured and disabled Servicemen and general needs housing for ex-Servicemen and their families.

 Help for Heroes

“It’s all about the blokes” Help for Heroes Inspire Enable and Support those who have made sacrifices on our behalf to achieve their full potential.

 The Royal British Legion

The Royal British Legion is the nation’s largest Armed Forces charity, providing care and support to all members of the British Armed Forces past and present and their families.


SSAFA provides lifelong support to anyone who is currently serving or has ever served in the Royal Navy, British Army or Royal Air Force and their families.

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