Before Christmas I wrote a post, “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red”, about the spectacular poppy installation at the Tower of London to commemorate the centenary of the start of World War 1. I meant to follow it up with a post about a huge ‘living’ poppy that was created locally at GCHQ. But 2014 ended as it had progressed, with accidents, emergencies and disasters of a medical, rather than domestic kind! Now that my own personal Annus Horribilis has ended, and a new year has begun, I am determined to continue with my blog. So here is my belated post on poppies and peace.
I have mentioned before that I live near ‘The Doughnut’, which is the local nickname for the building which houses the Government Communication Headquarters, GCHQ. Being an important part of our country’s security service, we rarely find out what is happening inside the building. They are brilliant at keeping things quiet! So it was a great surprise to find that many of the workforce, past and present had taken part in what can only be described as a ‘happening’!
The Gloucestershire branch of the Royal British Legion wanted to do something special, unusual and spectacular, to mark the centenary of World War 1 and GCHQ personnel volunteered to help. What they created was certainly spectacular and got quite a lot of press coverage although, unlike the Tower of London installation, no member of the public actually saw it for real!
A single giant poppy, representing ‘Remembrance of the past and hope for the future’, was created with military precision and great planning. 27 service people from the Royal Navy wore black uniforms to form the centre of the poppy. They were surrounded by 1308 GCHQ staff in red rain ponchos to form the petals. 73 other military personnel wearing green combat dress formed the stalk. Altogether 100 military and 1308 civilian staff were involved and the completed poppy measured 38 metres in diameter with a 28 metre long stalk. It took just over an hour to get everyone in position. I read that the GCHQ’s brass band, ‘Top Secret Brass’, provided rousing music to keep everyone’s spirits up. Aerial photographs were taken from a helicopter, and I am delighted to say that I have been given permission to use them in my blog. You can also watch the creation of the poppy here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zc5ijfpXwK0
Participants were invited to make a donation to take part and £1730 was raised. The used ponchos were donated to local charities namely a number of scout groups in the local area and Bloodbikes, a charity providing out of hours emergency medical courier service to Gloucestershire and the surrounding counties.
In view of the amount of blood transfusions my husband has had recently, I have to say that is a cause very close to my heart.