Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Cadet lays final Remembrance poppy

A young army cadet laid the final poppy at the Tower of London as Britain marked an especially poignant Armistice Day, 100 years since the start of the First World War.

Cadet Harry Hayes, 13, was watched by a crowd of thousands at the landmark display as he placed the last of 888,246 ceramic flowers, each of which represents a British or colonial war death in the brutal conflict.

The schoolboy, from the combined cadet force at Reading Blue Coat School in Berkshire, completed the vibrant red swathe of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, which has become a focal point for remembrance commemorations in this centenary year.

His maternal great-great-great uncle, Private Patrick Kelly of the 1st Battalion, Irish Guards, was killed in action on September 27 1918, just weeks before the war's end.

Cadet Hayes said he was nervous as he went up to plant the poppy, telling Sky News: "It is an amazing honour, seeing all these poppies and I managed to plant the last one."

The traditional two-minute silence was observed publicly and privately across the country and further afield, including the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire and at Ypres on the former Western Front in Belgium, to remember the millions of British servicemen and women who have died in conflicts since 1914.

This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Thousands attended the Royal British Legion's Silence In The Square event and Prime Minister David Cameron was among those who paid tribute at the Cenotaph, where wreaths were laid.

Graham Jordan took his father Eric, 98, who served in North Africa in the Second World War, to the ceremony on Whitehall.

Mr Jordan said: "It is a wonderful experience to be able to take part in remembrance of all those who have gone before us.

"It is a wonderful feeling. A shiver goes down your spine as you think of all those who have gone."

The Queen observed the two-minute silence privately before beginning an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Since last year's Armistice Day, another seven members of the British armed forces have died in service - including five who died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in April.

The first flowers of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red were planted in July and t he artwork was officially unveiled by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge when 120,000 were in place in August.

The remainder were gradually added over the weeks leading up to today by an army of 17,500 volunteers.

General Lord Dannatt, constable of the Tower of London, who read from the famous poem For The Fallen ahead of the traditional two-minute silence, told the BBC that five million people have visited to see the display.

Paul Cummins, the artist behind the piece, was asked by the broadcaster whether he had thought about what he might do to mark the centenary of the end of the war in 2018.

He joked: "I think I will sleep first."

Each flower has been sold for £25 to raise money for six charities, the Confederation of Service Charities, Combat Stress, Coming Home, Help for Heroes, Royal British Legion and SSAFA (formerly the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association).

Each is expected to receive in excess of £1.2 million, according to Historic Royal Palaces, which commissioned the installation.

There have been calls for the display to be kept in the moat and it was announced at the weekend that the wave section of the artwork will remain on show until the end of the month.

Martin Page, whose grandfather and father fought in the First and Second World Wars, brought a small post of poppies to pin to the Tower rails, bearing the inscription: "For all the fallen, from one who stands and remembers."

He said: "To look at all this here, it's absolutely magnificent.

"But it's also tragic when you think that each one of those flowers there is one life.

"Just short of 900,000 there - it's terrible."


From Belfast Telegraph