It’s been a real team effort to bring the Weeping Window to Derby.
For me the Poppies are important because they enable us to Remember and to Mourn.
The very fact that they’ve captured the national public imagination shows that emotions still run very deep, nearly 100 years after the end of the First World War.
Recently, I took part in the latest unveiling of a Blue Plaque to mark locations of historic importance in the city, organised in partnership with the Derby Civic Society.
This one was for a Derby lad, Jacob Rivers, who was awarded the Victoria Cross in March 1915 for bravery in combat and was killed in that action at Neuve Chapelle in France.
Just listening to the stories and memories of the family of Jacob Rivers who attended was a moving and emotional experience. For they, like many across country, continue to mourn the loss of a loved one and a lives cut short in their prime.
The Poppies also enable us to join together in Remembrance.
But to do that we also need to know about the events that happened between 1914 and 1918. I’m consciously aware, that at the age of 45, I’m of an age and generation that was able to hear first-hand from those that lived through those monumental years.
When I was at Dale Primary School in Normanton, to honour the contribution made by veterans of World War One, my class mates invited their relatives, to come in and tell us about their experiences.
I particularly remember the pride I shared listening to the stories of my school friend’s relatives who served and survived.
I and my generation were fortunate, as sadly the last living veteran, Florence Green, passed away in 2012 at the age of 110.
Her experiences, and those of many who served their country, is now confined to the history books, and in the oral stories their families will pass on to the next generation.
The Poppies, therefore, are an imaginative and creative way to capture the public imagination and enable the next generation to Remember and to Learn.
Many of the residents I represent as a councillor were unable to visit the Poppies when they were at the Tower of London, and so were many Derbyshire people, but now the Poppies have come to us.
So please visit the Poppies Weeping Windows at the Silk Mill, on display until Sunday 23rd July. There is more information available at visitderby.co.uk/poppies
I’d like to finish with my favourite poem from my school days, and one well known, which I feel is particularly poignant for this occasion.
Written by a Canadian Army Doctor, and read out at a burial service of those killed in action during the Second Battle of Ypres, it’s often read out at Remembrance services across the country –
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Ranjit Banwait, Leader of the Council and Councillor for Boulton Ward