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Blood-red sea of poppies at Oakham Castle pay heartbreaking tribute to First World War heroes

More than 10,000 handmade poppies have been planted in front of Oakham Castle to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War.

The heartrending blood-red tribute sweeps on to the bank facing the church in an emotion-charged salute to thousands of Rutland servicemen killed and injured in the Great War.

The Rutland Poppy Project was officially launched by Dr Sarah Furness, Rutland's Lord Lieutenant, in a packed ceremony in bright sunshine at Oakham Castle on Sunday.

2248 Sqdrn Rutland Air Cadets
2248 Sqdrn Rutland Air Cadets

Vickie Goddard, who set up and masterminded the ambitious scheme to remember the fallen, said: "The sun shone and it was a fantastic day.

"The weather couldn't have been better and there was a huge turn-out.

"It was emotional and poignant and the reaction from the public was absolutely amazing."

She said her brilliant brainstorm was inspired by artist Paul Cummins' world-acclaimed sea of poppies lighting up the Tower of London in 2014.

"Our poppies are ceramic.

"Each one has been hand made and well over 6,000 people have got involved in making the flowers," said Vickie, an art technician at Catmose College, Oakham.

"Many local schools and children have backed us as well.

"And a lot of supporters well beyond Rutland - including one from as far away as Brisbane in Australia - have made poppies for us.

"We targeted creating more than 10,000 poppies because it's a big landmark number.

"We'll sell them all for a suggested donation of £2 each and every penny will go to support the Royal British Legion."

Guests at the launch ceremony on Sunday included the military wives' choir, Defence Animal Training Regiment, Friends of Stamford and Rutland Theatre and 2248 Squadron Rutland Air Cadets along with scores of local schoolchildren.

"The whole project has been an astonishing success.

"The people of Oakham and Rutland have got behind us all the way," said Vickie.

"The entire community has been so positive and supportive.

"And just about everyone who's become involved has got a story about a loved one who fought in the First World War.

"We even heard about one poor couple who lost their two sons on the same day.

"It really brings home to you the massive cost and sacrifice that Rutland families made during the war."

She said they had also made 60 striking aluminium horseshoes embedded with poppies and the dates 1918 and 2018.

"We are sending them out to every war memorial in Rutland," said Vickie.

"The project has been very successful and we're very proud that so many people have supported us from start to finish."

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