The Royal Garrison Church of St. George at Woolwich Barracks was destroyed by a flying bomb in the Second World War. Now open to the public as a memorial garden, a national competition was held to design new gates for the west end to provide a secure and attractive entrance to the ruined church.
The inspiration behind the design is the poem In Flanders Field by Lt. Col. John McCrae, which describes the poppies growing between the crosses marking the graves of the fallen. It also describes larks singing and flying in the sky above the guns below. The poem, and the poppy it describes, have since become the remembrance symbol for soldiers who have died in all conflicts.
Conceived as an architectural ‘trophy’, the decoration at the base of the gates incorporates the 9lb gun from the Royal Regiment of Artillery’s Cap Badge. Above this, the design diffuses into a wildflower ‘meadow’ composed of poppies, cornflowers and forget-me-nots. Poppies are widely recognised as the remembrance flower of the Commonwealth countries, whereas the cornflower or ‘Le Bleuet de France’ is the national symbol of remembrance in France. The forget-me-not is the (unofficial) symbol of remembrance in Germany. In this way, the composition acknowledges the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War (and the first Armistice Day) in 2018; and that whether friend or foe, every life lost is worthy of remembrance. Towards the top of each gate a couple of gilded larks perch amongst the flowers.
The gates were made by an artist blacksmith alongside apprentice farriers of the King’s Troop Horse Artillery, who are stationed at Woolwich. HRH The Duke of Gloucester officially unveiled the gates at a dedication service in April 2018.