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100 years on - the meaning of the Poppy

This year marks 100 years since the Red Poppy was worn as a symbol of remembrance.


Why was the Poppy chosen?


Prior to World War 1 there were very little poppies growing in the fields of Flanders, Belgium. The Poppy requires fertile, ploughed land to grow something that Flanders did not have. However, as the land was churned up with shelling & fighting the seeds that had previously lay dormant underground were pushed to the surface. The ground was fertilised by the blood & bones of soldiers & animals providing them with ideal conditions to flourish.


By 1915 accounts tell of a beautiful carpet of scarlet poppies & as the war continued the poppies thrived in abundance. As well as Flanders, there were also reports of them growing in Gallipoli & France.


Image via Unsplash (Paul Wickens)

They were the inspiration for John McCrae’s Poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ a poem written in 1915 following the death of his friend at the 2nd battle of Ypres

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.


McCrae was a Canadian Doctor whos poem would be published in Punch Magazine

sparking emotion in all who read it.


John McCrae - Public Domain, Wikicommons

What does the Poppy Represent?


McCrae’s poem inspired US Academic Moina Michael to campaign that the poppy be

recognised as a symbol of remembrance


They would be sold in Great Britain from 1921 to raise funds for the Earl Haig Fund to

support ex-servicemen & families of those killed during war.


By 1922 they had become so popular that the British Legion founded a factory to

manufacture them. Employing ex-servicemen to produce these, they continue to do so

today.


Image via Unsplash (Victoria Tronina)

It is a symbol that carries a wealth of history & meaning. It gives each of us time to

reflect on individual experiences & memories.


Since then, various other colours of poppies have been adopted each with different

meanings, but all to commemorate lives lost during conflict.


Lest we Forget


 

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