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Sunday, 2 November 2014

Lest we forget - Poppies at the Tower of London

Lance-Corporal Donald Salisbury Hunter was 25 when he died from wounds and pneumonia on Oct 30 1918, just 12 days before the end of World War 1. One of the 888,246 troops from Britain and the colonies who gave their lives in the conflict, he had been a member of the 13th Reinforcements, New Zealand Expeditionary Force, and was wounded twice, first in the Somme, secondly in France, two months before his death. His distraught family in Dunedin were unable to mourn at his graveside, but last month his brother's granddaughter, Judy Newhook, on the last day of a visit to Europe, remembered him as she stood in silence at the Tower of London. Before her, in the moat, was a scarlet field of ceramic poppies, each flower representing one of the fallen.
The installation, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, was created to mark the 100th anniversary of the Great War. The hand-made flowers were for sale for £25 each, with proceeds going to six service charities. Among the first to plant a poppy back in August were Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, along with Prince Harry. The day after Judy’s pilgrimage, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were at the Tower to pay tribute and lay a wreath, and by the start of November, visitor numbers were estimated to have reached some four million. Many were there at sunset each day to hear the names of 180 of the troops killed read out as part of a Roll of Honour, followed by the Last Post.
All the poppies had been sold well before Judy's visit. The last one will be symbolically planted on Armistice Day, November 11, after which the installation will be dismantled and the flowers cleaned before being dispatched to their owners.

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