Understanding the Poppy

poppy-fieldEvery year on November 11th Britain pays respect to its soldiers, remembering those who have fallen in wars gone by and those still fighting for their country today.

In the days and weeks leading up to this day of remembrance poppies are a common sight, fastened to the breast of adults and children alike. But how did the poppy come to symbolize a nation’s remembrance of its troops….?

Flanders Fields
During the First World War a devastating battle took place at Flanders Fields in Belgium. Thousands of soldiers lost their lives and the land was torn apart by the fighting. In 1915 a Canadian soldier named John McCrae wrote a poem called “In Flanders Fields.” Many people believe that this poem was written for his friend, fellow Canadian Alexis Helmer, who was killed during the battle.

The poppy
During the poem McCrae refers to the poppies which grew on the battlefields of Flanders. They must have been quite a sight, springing up amidst the death and devastation caused by the fighting.

Moira Michael
In 1918 an American lady named Moira Michael read McCrae`s poem. She was so touched by the words that she responded with her own poem called “We Shall Keep the Faith,” which promised to remember the cause of those who had fallen. She also started to wear a poppy as a sign of her remembrance.

Madame E. Guerin
In 1920 a French lady named Madame E Guerin started to sell poppies around the 11th of November (the day World War I ended) as a way of raising money for children who had been affected by the war.

The Royal British Legion
In 1921 Guerin persuaded the Royal British Legion to adopt the poppy as their symbol. The Legion agreed and to this day sells poppies in the days and weeks leading up to November 11th as a way of raising money for British soldiers and their families (a campaign known as the “Poppy Appeal”).