|Charles Rees has written this piece about the significance of the poppy for remembrance.
Tributes to the sacrifice of Australian and New Zealand defence personnel of war conflicts are many and in various forms throughout their landscapes. These I can attest from my research travels through both countries. However the most significant tribute to those honoured on these cenotaphs and memorials is the RED POPPY placed in adoring remembrance. The wearing of artificial poppies has become a symbol of remembrance for Armistice Day (now Remembrance Day), November 11 each year for the nations of the British Commonwealth who fought in World War One (WW1), and their Allies. Also for ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand.
“Flanders“ poppies reappeared in abundance on the shattered battlefields of Flanders in France and Belgium after hostilities ceased at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of November 1918. They were seen as a poignant reminder of the dead soldiers, resembling the bloodshed from the carnage of the Great European War; vivid red colour.
Poppy badges of various types have been sold by charities as fund raising for ex-service personnel welfare causes. In recent years of the centennial of WW1 knitted and crocheted red poppies have been created, proving very popular. The first charity sale of poppies was in England in 1915.
Many cultures of the world regard the poppy as a symbol of loyalty, martyrdom or love. How fitting as a Remembrance Day tribute to sacrifice on the battlefield.
The “Flanders” or common/corn poppy has commercial uses despite being regarded as an agricultural weed. The black seeds are edible, often used in bread and cooking, the oil is highly regarded in France. The red petals are a useful dye and has medicinal purposes.
United States of America (USA) humanitarian Moina Michael working for the YWCA was inspired by Canadian doctor Major John McCrae’s last verse of his poem “We Shall Not Sleep (later named “In Flanders Fields”):
‘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.’
Moina wrote ‘And now the Torch and Poppy Red, we wear in honour of our dead...’ , this was to start her campaign to wear red poppies for Remembrance. Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy.
In 1921 the British Legion started selling red poppies on mass, acquiring them from France. The artificial flowers were manufactured and sold to raise money to aid war orphans. They were supplied by Madame Anna Guerin, regarded as The Poppy Lady of France.
The popularity of the poppies prompted the British Legion to setup a factory in 1922 to make their own poppies. Staffed by disabled ex-servicemen; this remains so today.
Different colours of poppies are sold by some charities to commemorate other causes of war. White to symbolise peace without violence and purple to honour animals killed in war.
The 5000 Poppy Project was started by two Australian ladies to remember their WW2 fathers. Knitting and crocheting red poppies to create displays. It caught the attention of the CWA ladies and many other groups to supply poppies.
Massive displays were laid out during the centennial years of WW1 in Canberra at the Australian War Memorial and Parliament House. At the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne and the Australian Memorial at Fromelles, France. In London a massive display was created at the Tower of London.
For Remembrance Day 2020 in Dimboola there is Shirley King’s Poppy Dress. Hats off to Shirl for her devotion.
Selective breeding has produced a decorative cultivar, ironically, known as the Shirley poppy.
LEST WE FORGET.