There are many moving builds in Second Life, such as the memorial to the World Trade Centre on Celestial Requiem. Some of them, such as Camp Darfur and the Streets of Baghdad, can be found on Better World Island (which was our Sim of the Month in Issue 4).
Today I visited another such build, a very simple one, which was deeply moving in its very simplicity.
I went very early in the morning, and I was alone in this whole landscape. It was an incredible experience – but I suspect that so will it be visiting when other people are making their own way to the centre, or simply standing still to observe the two minutes silence (at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month).
It’s nine complete sims – a vast open field of scarlet poppies. You can see its appearance on the map to the right (and enlarged here). And it’s a special build to commemorate Remembrance Day, November 11th (the say that the Armistice was signed to end the First World War in 1918.
It has been built in Second Life by Rivers Run Red, working with the Royal British Legion, the organisation that cares and campaigns for the serving and ex-Service Community. Its core fundraising drive every year is the sale of Red Poppies; this year, the annual Poppy Appeal has a target of £27.5 million for the Royal British Legion to continue its work safeguarding the welfare, interest and memory of the Armed Forces, past and present, and their families.
Residents and visitors to Second Life can find the Garden of Remembrance by visiting the “poppy 2” island in-world to begin their journey.
Here, in a simple stone memorial gaden, such as you might find on the edge of one of the vast war grave cemetries of Northern France, you will find plaques that link the the Royal British Legion website, and also an open box of poppies for you to take one and wear.
Then you can turn, and see the vast field of poppies before you, stretching out to a distant memorial on top of the hill at the centre of the nine sims – the Centoaph.
You might want to pause here for a moment, and reflect. Here are no white cross, just thousands upon thousand of poppies. But it is all too easy to imagine for each of those poppies a life lost in the wars of the twentieth century – at Ypres, Passchendaele, the Somme, Mons, Al Alamein, Arnheim, the Normandy Beaches, Midway, the Blitz, Dresden, Auschwitz, Hiroshima … and since.
As you walk towards the centre the poppies become denser until you reach the heart of the Garden and stand at the foot of the Cenotaph, positioned at the exact centre of the nine island build.
It’s an exact replica of the structure designed by Sir Edwin Luytens for ceremonial use in Whitehall. Here, every year, at the Rememberance Day ceremony, wreaths are laid by the Queen and members of the roral family; the Prime Minister, leaders of major political parties, the Foreign Secretary, the Commonwealth High Commissioners and representatives from the Army, Navy and the Royal Air Force, the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets and the Civilian Services. A two minutes’ silence is held at 11am. This silence is marked by the firing of a field gun on Horse Guards Parade to begin and end the silence, followed by Royal Marines buglers, playing the Last Post.
You can see the full press release from the Royal British Legion here, and it includes a machinma of part of the planned Second Life service.
As for me, this morning, I paused for a while to reflect beneath the flags of the Cenotaph, beneath the flag of the RAF (the Royal Air Force) in which mty father served (and survived).
The Cenotaph speaks of the Glorious Dead (words chosen by Kipling, who had lost his only son in the War and had come to realise the cost of war in a very personal way). And I thought how much more glorious they could have been if they had been allowed Life.