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Princes and Kate plant symbolic poppies to remember WW1 dead

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry view the Tower of London's poppy installation. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry view the Tower of London's poppy installation. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge joined Prince Harry at the Tower of London to symbolically plant poppies to commemorate British and Commonwealth dead from the First World War.

The three young Royals each planted a ceramic version of the red flower so synonymous with the conflict in a powerful and enormous art installation at the London landmark.

Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red, in the Tower’s moat, currently consists of 120,000 poppies but more will be added over the coming months until there are 888,246 on Armistice Day, November 11, one for each British and Colonial death during the war.

William was heard telling the artwork’s creator Paul Cummins the piece was “spectacular” before they joined him to climb the Middle Tower to view the artwork from on high.

They then walked through the poppies before planting their own tribute to the war dead, accompanied by General Lord Dannatt, Constable of the Tower of London, and his wife Philippa.

The smartly-suited Princes and Kate, who wore a dress of cobalt blue, also met volunteers from Historic Royal Palaces and ex-services personnel who helped install the artwork.

They then briefly walked around the moat to see the extent of the work so far while crowds lining the top of the moat cheered.

Mr Cummins said he got the idea for the artwork from a “living will” he found in Derbyshire two years ago which had used the phrase that gave his installation its name.

“Each one represents someone who died in the First World War from Britain and the Dominions. I’m literally trying to represent people because a number is a number, but if you see it all like this it is a visual idea of how many people were there.”

Stage designer Tom Piper, who helped Mr Cummins make his vision a reality, said: “We also wanted to make sure it didn’t become regimented mass rows of poppies – there is an organic quality to it – so taking the line of the ‘seas of red’, a feeling of waves of movement so that some of the poppies are higher than others so you can see them gently moving in the breeze ... just to give it a sort of energy, the energy of all those who lost their lives.”

The royal visit to the exhibition comes a day after they joined political leaders and relatives of the fallen in Belgium to remember the sacrifices and losses exactly a century on from Britain’s entry into the war.

The Tower’s part in the war started when more than 1,600 men swore an oath to the crown there in August 1914 after enlisting for war service.

The poppies in the moat take three days to make each and are for sale online at £25 per flower.

After Remembrance ceremonies in November they will be posted to the buyers, with profits divided between six service charities including Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion.

Each of the poppies is being installed by the artists and a team of 8,000 volunteers.

One of those volunteers is Joan Clayton-Jones, 72, from Sussex, who has made repeated trips to the capital to take part over the last few months despite the hard work involved.

She said: “When I saw it advertised I just had to come here, my great uncle was killed in the First World War and my husband’s grandfather.

“It is my own personal act of remembrance, I just came because I wanted to do it.

“I have a photograph of my great uncle in my bag today.”

 

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