Saturday Snapshots: Poppies

Wave: The poppy installation at the Naval Memorial on Plymouth Hoe commemorates service men and women who died in the First World War.

I don’t often write Remembrance posts because, rightly or wrongly, I tend to think that it somehow seems wrong to commemorate those who died in WW1 and WW2 while there is still conflict going on all over the world, and mankind doesn’t seem to have learned anything from past. But while I was in Plymouth last month I walked up on the Hoe and came across Wave, the poppy installation at the Naval Memorial, and found it very moving indeed, and it doesn’t glorify or justify war in any way.


The ceramic flowers were originally part of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red display at the Tower of London back in 2014.  Created by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper it involved a staggering 888,246 blooms, each representing a life lost during the First World War. I saw the original exhibition, which was truly stunning, and the Plymouth display, although considerably smaller, is every bit as breath-taking, and every bit as thought provoking.

The Naval Memorial from a distance: You don’t see the poppies until you get right up close, especially when it’s as foggy and rainy as it was the day I visited – the sky may look blue in this photograph, but it was a very nasty shade of grey!

The poppies have been placed to form a giant wave, rearing up against the memorial, which was established by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Close by is a hut where visitors can leave their memories and thoughts, and there are excellent information boards about the Great War and the work of the CWGC, as well as volunteers who provide guided tours.

Raindrops keep falling: That’s a paved area, not a water feature – I wanted to try and get all the poppies and all the memorial in a picture, but didn’t succeed.

The Plymouth display took 8 days to set up, and is one of is one of two sculptures taken from the original installation. It’s already been shown at Southend, Cardiff, Hull and Derby, and other venues are planned, including Stoke. But Plymouth is the only location where the poppies have been placed on a war memorial, which makes it all the more poignant. I gather it is lit by spotlights at night, which makes it look even more spectacular. Wave can be seen until November 19, and if you’re in the Plymouth area it really is worth a visit, and will make you think about the pity and futility of war.

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A close-up of one of the ceramic poppies.

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