Tower of London flames: the meaning behind the poignant WWI tribute
Beyond the Deepening Shadow installation fills the moat with field of flames
Thousands of individual torches lit up the Tower of London last night in an elaborate and moving installation to mark 100 years since the end of the First World War.
At 5pm precisely, a ceremonial Beefeater carrying a flaming baton lit the first of 10,000 torches which have been planted in the tower’s moat.
Service personnel and civilian volunteers then moved through the moat, lighting the remainder of the torches, accompanied by a soundscape of choral music and extracts from the work of American war poet Mary Borden.
“It took around 45 minutes to light all the flames, which burned for around four hours,” Sky News reports.
The installation, called Beyond the Deepening Shadow, will take place every evening for a week, ending on 11 November, the 100-year anniversary of Armistice Day.
The evocative display is the work of sound artist Mira Calix and designer Tom Piper, who was also the visionary behind Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the field of ceramic poppies erected in the moat in 2014 to mark the centenary of the beginning of the war.
As with the poppies featured in the 2014 artwork, the individual torches represent those who lost their lives between 1914 and 1918.
The pattern in which the torches are lit also has meaning, beginning with those in the centre and “gradually creating a circle of light, radiating from the Tower as a powerful symbol of remembrance”, says the Tower of London website.
The installation also pays tribute to the suffering and sacrifice of those on the home front.
“The message with the sound is not focused so much on those that were lost, but those that were left behind, the bereaved and others who were affected by war,” Dick Harrold, governor of the Tower of London, told the London Evening Standard.
“What is so special about it is it means many different things.”
Royal Navy midshipman Balraj Dhanda, one of the torch-lighters, said the field of glowing torches inspires observers to dwell on the sacrifices of the First World War in their own way.
“I think it creates the right atmosphere for people to have their own personal reflections, and gives people time with their own thoughts,” he told The Guardian.
Although tickets to view the lighting of the torches from the moat have sold out, members of the public can watch the ceremony for free from the concourse around the tower grounds. The display begins at 5pm every night until 11 November.