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In a shared act of remembrance the British and French Defence Secretaries planted ceramic poppies at the Tower of London.
The Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon, and the French Defence Minister, Jean-Yves le Drian, honoured fallen service men and women from World War 1 by planting ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower, some of the last to be planted in the evolving installation.
The planting of poppies took place on the day that marked 100 years since of the start of trench warfare on the Western Front and the last poppy will be planted on Armistice Day, 11 November 2014.
Created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, the ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ art installation will see the Tower of London moat filled with 888,246 ceramic poppies, one for each British and colonial fatality during the First World War.
In an act of symbolic solidarity, the Ministers exchanged Poppies and Bleuets, the Commonwealth and French symbols of remembrance.
The Poppy became the Commonwealth symbol when it grew over the battlefields of Flanders; the Bleuet, or cornflower, grew along the Western Front in areas where many French soldiers were killed.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
The UK and France stood shoulder to shoulder in 1914. We still do so now.
On an occasion of such importance to both of our countries, I’m honoured to welcome Jean-Yves to the Tower of London to view the poppies.
The people of our countries made enormous sacrifices during the Great War.
The 888,246 poppies at the Tower represent the number of British dead. French losses significantly exceeded 1 million.
I pay tribute to their sacrifice, and that of all who have died in the service of their country.
After viewing the poppies, the Ministers went on to discuss UK-French defence partnerships, including current security challenges in the Middle East and Africa, Euro-Atlantic security and implementation of the decisions of the NATO Summit.