The men who gave their today for our tomorrow, Richard and Judy pay tribute

Monday 3 November 2014

After Armistice Day on November 11 the nearly 900,000 ceramic poppies planted in the Tower’s moat, each representing a British soldier killed in the First World War, will be removed and dispatched to those who have bought them for £25 each, raising £11million for armed service charities.

The artwork has attracted around four million visitors so far.

It’s a breathtaking sight which has moved many, including the Duchess of Cambridge, to tears.

I think most people who’ve seen it, whether in reality or on TV, would agree that it is the most moving Remembrance tribute we have witnessed.

All except a former Turner Prize judge called Jonathan Jones, who has written an online article describing the installation as “trite, fake and inward-looking”.

Although the flooding tide of poppies is called Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red, Mr Jones writes: “In spite of the mention of blood in its title, this is a deeply aestheticised, prettified and toothless war memorial.”

And he goes on: “A meaningful mass memorial to this horror would not be dignified or pretty.

"It would be gory, vile and terrible to see.

"The moat of the Tower should be filled with barbed wire and bones.

"That would mean something.”

He’s right to make the point that war is vile and horrible.

All wars are tragic and the First World War especially so.

The hundreds of thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in the carnage of 1914-18 left behind a generation of widows and fatherless children.

What those men suffered on the battlefields was terrible beyond description.

And yet Jonathan Jones completely misunderstands what that sea of poppies represents.

It embodies the soul and the heroism of those men who “gave our today for your tomorrow”, whose sacrifice was not in vain. War is vile but the courage and nobility of those who died for us is not.

It is splendid and awe-inspiring, recognising their sacrifice and being moved to tears by the memory of those soldiers is what makes us human.

It is humanity, bravery and love that those poppies at the Tower commemorate.

That, and our enormous debt of gratitude.

Read Richard and Judy's column for the Express in full here.
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  • My father was killed in WW11...aged 36. Trinity House Channel Pilot.I was two. I still grieve. I remember seeing an old lady on TV talking about waving her father off on the railway station to fight in The First World War. She said she was still waiting for him to come back. The Tower poppies are a huge comfort to those who have lost loved ones and to us as a nation. Also they are a thing of beauty and far more likely to be accepted by the public. Yes we must never forget...and do all we can to stop wars that still rage in our world.


  • As an artist, I am aware that even if most could make the leap in thinking that art requires, there are still many ways to see a work of art. Some get snagged on an idea about what it means they cannot let go; it just feels right. There was an outcry when Maya Lin created the VietNam Memorial so a sculpture of soldiers was de.mand.ed. But people still cry when standing at the Wall. No one stands by the soldiers. What touches most deeply is metaphor; the art that is as mysterious as the mystery at the center of each of our lives.