Terrence Clark visited memorial sites in Vimy and Flanders and experienced the moving ceremony at the Menin Gate. He was inspired to design the cenotaph in response to the history and the still visible scars left by the conflict.
As he walked down and along the trenches he experienced the emotional power of the site. In that now peaceful environment, it seemed that the very ground was remembering the suffering of those poor soldiers. In that highly charged environment, an idea began to develop – the props that originally supported the sides of the trenches to stop the earth and mud from sliding back, seemed to be thrusting out of the ground, forcing up a mound that contained the souls of the dead soldiers. This idea evolved into the form of a solid plate of steel, 7 metres high x 2 metres wide x 10 cm thick, the colour of the earth, with a poppy cut into its edge, using positive and negative forms to represent the two sides of war. The negative, commemorates those that lost their lives, the families they left behind and those who were emotionally and physically damaged; the positive is the future that springs from their sacrifice, those that survived and their descendants.
Up to 2016 poppies have been forged from steel and are arranged at the Poppy Cenotaph site, in rigid formation around its base, to echo and pay homage to the serried ranks of gravestones and crosses honouring the dead in graveyards throughout the region. There is one white poppy to remember those that suffered from shell-shock and were called cowards. These soldiers were not cowards but “Victims of War”. The poppies are arranged in such a way as to enable visitors to touch the Poppy Cenotaph to encourage them to take ownership. The field of poppies is bordered by 26 railing panels. In plan, these are laid out to resemble the shape of the trenches, becoming an integral part of the design.