Over 1 million servicemen and women from Britain and the Commonwealth were lost or killed during the First World War. That is a difficult number to really get to grips with, a figure so large that it can become an abstraction. The actual figure is 1,115,471. I know this because there are 1,115,471 individual remembrance poppies – each bearing the name of a soldier, their rank, and the date on which they were killed or went missing – contained within the extraordinary Poppy of Honour that I was privileged to help unveil in Cale Park, Wincanton in October.
That rainy day in October marked the beginning of the Poppy’s journey through Somerset, beginning in Frome on 2nd November and visiting 19 towns here in Somerset before returning to Wincanton later on 20th November – and after taking a break for the winter, onto the Tower of London, and then Ypres in Belgium next year. It is an incredibly thought-provoking monument to the sheer human cost of that conflict, made tangible by the individual names – 1,115,471 individual names – that was its legacy.
This year of course marks 100 years since the end of the First World War, another big number, and one that can also be difficult to really get to grips with – but it will be the individual names on the plaques and monuments in the towns I visit on Armistice Day this year that will be in the forefront in my mind.