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 the nationwide two minute silence for the fallen every second Sunday of November at 11am, a 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 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 Academic Moina Michael designed. 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 to the welfare of the veterans and the care of their families.

Decades later, the poppy appeal still went on, with the British Legion being one of the biggest organisations within the UK, that aim to continue with the charity of selling poppies and sharing the profits to 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, Clive Owens, has been selling poppies to the public for 20 years after his service in Northern Ireland over. He moved to Coventry with his family and helped fellow members around the city to populate the cause. However, he and others assume that poppy selling is at a risk of becoming “a dying breed, as the ones who are the most involved are older people” he says. He explains more of his thoughts, things about remembrance day and general things about the charity during his interview to iCov.

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:

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 Clive Corbett himself 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 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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