The Tower of London Flows with Red

Kelly Lawyer
By Kelly Lawyer | August 1, 2014 | 11:42 AM EDT

The Tower of London is flowing with red - 888, 246 red poppies-to commemorate each British or Colonial life lost during World War I.  The poppy display, "Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red," will be unveiled on August 5 to remember the first day the British entered the worldwide conflict 100 years ago.

Tower of London Commemorates WWI Casualties

The 888, 246th poppy will be planted on November 11, Remembrance Day (also known as Armistice Day), the last day of WWI.   The last British soldier to die in the war, Private George Edwin Ellison, died just 90 minutes before the cease-fire at 11:00 a.m.

Why a poppy?  The Scarlet Corn Poppy has long been regarded as symbol for Remembrance Day because the flowers grow naturally in disturbed earth and was one of few plants able to grow in the disturbed fields of Europe.  The idea of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance was memorialized in Canadian John McCrae's poem, In Flanders Field:

"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."

The poppy was officially adopted as a symbol by the Royal Legion after its formation in 1921.  The ceramic flowers in the display will eventually be sold for $25 a piece with 10% of all proceeds going to charities helping servicemen.