London's sea of poppies is a beautiful monument to the fallen of World War I

I was overcome with emotion when placing the ceramic poppies at the Tower of London

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The Independent Online

I have always thought of myself as being part of a very lucky generation.  Born in 1947, after the Second World War, we did not have to endure the same agonies as our parents and grandparents did.

Like most young boys I always had an interest in the military, although my family were dairy farmers in Leicestershire.

I consider myself to have a pretty good knowledge of World War II, but knew very little about World War I, and with the Centenary approaching I thought I would go on a Battlefield Tour to Flanders, to try get a better understanding of what happened.

As I learned, I was totally unable to comprehend the sacrifices that had been made. We all know, that current generations will not just march off, as happened in the past. It’s unthinkable.

An opportunity arose for my wife and I to be volunteers placing poppies at the Tower of London, and I was determined to take part if possible. I'm registered partially sighted, but last week we were offered a shift - it was my 67th birthday.

We travelled down on the Saturday afternoon and were amazed at the crowds around the Tower; it was just like a cup final at Wembley. The next morning we started our shift placing poppies in the moat.

Our group of volunteers contained people of all ages and different sections of society, all wanting to be a part of this fantastic project, and to pay their respects.  As the morning went on, the crowds built up, with many asking us about what were were doing. But there was no triumphalism, just simple respect for everybody - from all sides of the conflict - who had paid such a heavy price for the freedoms that we take for granted today.

In fact, a large proportion of the visitors were from overseas and gave the impression that they were just as appreciative of the display as we were.

The sight of the sea of poppies is overpowering, and the installation touches people’s emotions in a perfect way.

It's hard to explain, but as you handle the poppies and look at the display, time and time again you are hit by the realisation that every one of the poppies is a life, that every poppy represents somebody, and it gives you a reverence and respect which is hard to describe if you haven't seen and felt it yourself.

My wife and I were very tired, both physically and emotionally after we had finished. But more than that, we were immensely proud to have been part of something so wonderful, and to have made just a small contribution to such a fantastic project.

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