I took this photo out in the Epping region, while walking about there with a friend, in the autumn of 2015. And I believe that even when I took it, it seemed like a modern take on Remembrance Sunday and all that. Death in a major war, although itself no doubt often a very solitary experience, is experienced by the rest of us, especially as events like World War One recede into history, as a vast collective, shared, catastrophe. It’s the scale of the death, the sheer numbers, that hits home. And much poppy imagery reflects this, for instance in the form of all those poppies that were recently planted around the Tower of London.
So this poppy photo perhaps suggests the individuality and isolation of military death, when fighting on behalf of a country like ours, now. Your son dies. But nobody else for miles around is suffering in the same way. You’re on your own.
The yellow of the surrounding flowers suggests cowardice, which I dare say is how some bereaved people feel about their loss: that everyone else is scared to get stuck in. But there the metaphor probably breaks down. I certainly think that the people of Britain would be more than ready in the future to fight another big war, if they thought it made sense.
But it was a striking sight, nevertheless.