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Blood-red sea: Ceramic poppies spill from Tower of London moat to honour World War I dead

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LONDON - A blood-red sea of ceramic poppies is spilling from the Tower of London to commemorate British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in World War I on the 100th anniversary of its start.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge joined Prince Harry on Tuesday to symbolically "plant" poppies in the dry moat surrounding the Tower to honour the military dead.

The installation, called "Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red," is at the moment made up of 120,000 ceramic poppies, a carpet of crimson. The red tide will widen in the coming months until there are 888,246 poppies — one for each of the British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in the war.

The project is meant to convey an army not as a faceless machine but as individuals, unique and special in their own right.

"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," said its creator, Paul Cummins.

Poppies became a symbol of war dead after the crimson flowers sprang up across the battlefields of Belgium where hundreds of thousands of soldiers died in World War I. The poem "In Flanders Fields," written by a Canadian doctor who ran a field hospital during the war, begins with the famous line, "In Flanders fields, the poppies blow — Between the crosses, row on row."

Poppies were later adopted as a symbol of remembrance and are often sold on holidays honouring veterans to benefit soldiers' charities.

The installation will continue through Nov. 11, the day World War I ended in 1918.

Each of the poppies in the Tower of London moat took three days to make. They will later be sold for 25 pounds ($42) each, and sent to the buyers after Armistice ceremonies in November.

The money will go to British charities such as the Royal Legion and Help for Heroes, which serve British veterans.

Some 8,000 volunteers will be placing the ceramic flowers that are attached to sticks and placed in the ground. One of them was 72-year-old Joan Clayton-Jones, whose great-uncle was killed, as was her husband's grandfather.

"I have a photograph of my great-uncle in my bag today," she said.

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