Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red
Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the art installation at The Tower of London, will be completed on 11 November when the last of the poppies are set in place. The poppy installation, by Paul Cummins, commemorates the centenary of the start of the First World War in 1914. An estimated four million people will have visited the display of 888, 246 handmade ceramic poppies ‘planted’ in the moat surrounding the Tower of London. The poppies, which were available to buy, have now all been sold with proceeds going to Service charities.
I visited the installation in October and quietly pondered the sea of red around the Tower. People gazed solemnly at the poppies and many shed a quiet tear or two. The thought that every poppy represents a British, Australian, or Commonwealth fatality from the First World War made the waves of poppies a powerful sight.
I hadn’t realised until this year that my grandmother lost two uncles during WW1. My Dad and brother, while researching our family tree, have found out a little about them so I’m going to share a small piece of our own family history with you today in my own tribute to them this Remembrance Sunday.
Brothers Jasper Botting and George Botting died whilst fighting in France in 1915. We know little about Jasper except that he served with the Royal Sussex Regiment and lost his life on 31 July 1915. He has a memorial in Houplines Old Military Cemetery in northern France. I’m told that my grandmother, now long gone herself, remembered her Mother being inconsolable when the news broke of the loss of her two brothers.
The Battle of Loos, France
We know a little more about George Botting, known as ‘Sim’ to his family. He served with the 7th Battalion East Surrey Regiment and died during active service at the Battle of Loos on Friday 8 October 1915 aged 29.
A Letter Home
He’d already had a near miss, as described in a letter home, and had endured the terrible mud in the trenches.
Letter from Great, Great, Uncle Sim (George)
Transcript of part of George’s letter home…
Dear Min and Chas
Just a line in answer to your letter which I received quiet safe and to say that I am still able at present.
Sorry that I have not answered your letter before but I have been back in the company for a while to let some learners get used to the guns. We have had a good lot of rain lately and there was plenty of mud about, I am really fed up with it, shall be glad when it is all over.
I have had one narrow escape, had a bullet through my hat, plenty close enough; it really made me drop a bit.
Thank Chas for the tobacco. I always look forward to your letters because you are the only one that sends a few cakes.
From your loving brother Sim xxx
George’s name is inscribed in the Loos Memorial in France.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)
The Weeping Willow and Wave segments of the exhibition will remain in place until the end of November before touring the country and will then be placed in a permanent exhibition at the Imperial War Museum.