World War I armistice centenary to be marked with 62,000 handmade poppies at Australian War Memorial


Updated

October 05, 2018 16:22:57

About two million man and woman hours have been committed to a stunning display at the Australian War Memorial.

A field of 62,000 poppies, each one representing an Australian life lost in World War I, has been unveiled in Canberra, with each handcrafted flower telling its own story.

One of almost a million blossoms knitted and submitted for the project bears the name and number of veteran AG Perkins, 2719. He was killed in action on the June 8, 1917.

The man who decided where Mr Perkins’ memory would lie, designer Phillip Johnson, brought to the field a photo of his great-grandfather, Richard Frederick Johnson, who died in the final months of World War I, just over 100 years ago.

Every poppy “planted” outside the War Memorial is unique in background and appearance, made by volunteers as far afield as Turkey and France, where so much Australian blood was shed.

The scattered placement of the field replicates how Australian soldiers fell and the way real poppies spring up in random patterns.

The display was the vision of Lynn Berry, who set out to make 120 poppies to commemorate her father’s service in World War II.

That was in 2012.

Since then, some went back to France in 2016 for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles, while others have had less arduous journeys to flower shows around Australia.

On Friday, the sea of red, faded red, green and any other flourishes the volunteers chose to include, was the realisation of a six-year dream.

“We started this project on such a small scale and it became huge,” Ms Berry said.

“Not all of those days were easy, but we stuck with it because we knew how important it was.

“People just kept sending poppies to us and we knew that we had to do them proud. So we did.”

In the end, far more than 50,000 people put their knitting needles to good use.

While the team was supported by a host of helpers, curating so many emotional stories of sacrifice and suffering became too much for the woman in charge at a certain point.

“There was no time to take a physical break but I used to type up all the dedications that people sent, and I had to stop doing that. I had to give that job to somebody else to do because it is overwhelming,” Ms Berry said.

“Those stories of love and devotion and pain and anguish through the generations, it’s palpable. I held onto them.

“There was a time when I could tell you every story of every poppy that I had, and I had to let that part of it go so that I could actually do the work.”

After Remembrance Day, which this year marks the centenary of the armistice, Ms Berry expects more than a million poppies will be disseminated to various individuals and organisations to benefit Legacy.

Her team will also have an installation at Parliament House at the end of the month, while other services around the country will put the handcrafted blooms on display in the coming months.

Ms Berry knows her job is far from done.

“We’ve still got work to do.”

Topics:

world-war-1,

canberra-2600,

act,

australia

First posted

October 05, 2018 15:24:33



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