The First World War ended at 11am on 11th November 1918. Each year we take time to remember those who died. Each year we buy a poppy to help support the work of the Royal British Legion.
But do you know why the poppy is the symbol of remembrance?
And do you know how to wear your poppy correctly?
Many know of the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ by John McCrae, written in May 1915 after his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, had been killed during the Second Battle of Ypres. The poem describes poppies growing between the graves of British soldiers.
The poppy was later chosen as a symbol of remembrance because it was the first of the flowers to re-appear on the battlefields, and because of the three colours in this simple, yet beautiful, flower:
- the deep red petals represent the blood of those who gave their lives for their country
- the black represents the mourning of those whose loved ones never returned from the conflict
- the green leaf represents the grass which covered the graves, and also hope for the future – crops being grown in a time of peace, and future prosperity after so much destruction
But did you know that the leaf should be worn in a particular position? Imagine that the poppy is a clock face, the leaf should be positioned at 11. This is a reminder that the death and destruction of World War One ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
And did you know that, whilst men wear their poppy on their left, many people say that women should wear the poppy on their right side? This is because it has always been traditional for women to wear broaches on the right. Many women still feel they should wear the poppy on the right, but the British Legion say you can wear it anywhere, as long as you wear it with pride.
So much symbolism in such a small thing.
As the years pass, fewer and fewer remember the symbolism of the poppy. I hope that this year you will take a few moments at 11am on 11th November to think of the poppy and what it represents.
In Flanders Fields by John McCrae
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.