Why we wear a red poppy for Remembrance Day

 

If you’ve celebrated remembrance day in the UK, you will know that people partake in different types of activities that commemorate the tradition. Some choose to wear a poppy badge or attend a service, hold fundraisers for current members of the army or take part in two minutes of silence for the fallen, every second Sunday of November at 11am, a nationwide tradition that originated from the year 1919.

Although it started after the first world war, the day is in remembrance for all the people who have died in the following wars: World War Two, Golf war and the Falkland’s war. Despite the latter being a few of the biggest and most memorable of wars for the Brits, remembrance day doesn’t exclude remembering the fallen from conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and future wars to come.

The poppy became the universal symbol for remembrance after the tragedies that had previously commenced on the western front, particularly after the first world war. Soldiers were starting to notice flurries of red poppies spreading like red blankets across the fields. Poppies were the first signs of life since mass devastation had happened on the fields.

A Canadian Doctor who was visiting the fields, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, took particular interest in the poppies growing from the graves. After his visit, he wrote one of the most famous poems ‘In Flanders Fields’ in just 20 minutes. Later, his poem was released in Punch magazine, which then inspired the creation of the silk poppy designed by Academic Moina Michael. Anna Guerin was the lady who brought the materials to her. Together, they were the first to start the poppy appeal in 1920, selling around 9 million poppies. The proceeds went towards the welfare of the veterans and the care of their families.

Commemoration pillow

Decades later, the poppy appeal still went on, with the British Legion being one of the biggest organisations within the UK to support it. They aim to continue with the action of selling poppies and sharing the profits with those who are in need. They have extended the range of what they sell to wreaths, sprays and crosses and have various charity partnerships around the UK including The Coventry building society.

One loyal member, Ben Benson, 62, has been selling poppies to the public for 20 years after his service ended. He moved to Coventry with his family and helped fellow members around the city to help make the cause more popular. However, he and others assume that poppy selling is at a risk of becoming extinct, as “The ones who are the most involved are older people” he says. Another seller, Leah Morrish, 23, says otherwise. A new poppy seller, she is optimistic that the practice will continue. She claims that, ‘For as long as there are wars, the cause will continue’.

In the spirit of the charity, meetings are held usually on a selected day on the first week of a new month. If you would like to attend a meeting, here are the locations:

Royal Warwick’s Club, Tower Street in Coventry, meets at the 1st Sunday of every month, 11am.

Standard Triumph Social Club, Tile Hill Lane, meets every 2nd Tuesday of every month, 7:30pm.

This coming Saturday, West Orchids will be completing the annual poppy drop where hundreds and thousands of poppies will be sprayed into the air and dropped on attendees, soldiers and the Mayor. On remembrance Sunday, the laying of the wreath will take place in the war memorial park by poppy seller and ex-service member, Clive Corbett, before 11am.

If you’ve not had a chance to view the sweet and somber words of poet Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, here they are:

IN FLANDERS FIELDS

In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place: and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders’ fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high,

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders’ Fields.

Gugu Mashava

 

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