The beautiful red poppy has been a lasting symbol of remembrance from all who have fallen in wars since World War I. The British Royal Legion say that a poppy also symbolises hope for a peaceful future. But people wear a poppy for their own personal reasons.
Many people wear poppies, and more recently poppy jewellery, to show their respect and support for the armed forces, as many of the charity poppies sold fund charities that help to support ex-service people.
We are finding that customers are choosing to buy a piece of longer-lasting poppy jewellery, whilst making an annual donation to a charity supporting the Armed Forces, such as the Royal British Legion.
Many celebrities have worn beautiful and elaborate poppy jewellery on television and, indeed, the British Royal Family often wear stunning poppy jewellery brooches on the Remembrance parades they attend.
Why A Red Poppy For Remembrance?
World War I was fought mostly in Western Europe where the land was repeatedly bombed and stripped of its beautiful, natural beauty. Acres of lush, green fields, hedges and trees were replaced with mud, blasted trees and barren landscapes.
But amidst all this destruction and devastation, the beautiful wild, red poppy would appear. This resilient little flower would emerge in the midst of the brown, bleak landscape and bring with it the beauty, hope and joy that nature gifts us. It became a symbol of resilience and touching beauty to the troops that were still there (and later the families and loved ones of those that had fallen).
One such doctor, a Canadian man called Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, was so moved by the sight of these wild, red poppies after he lost a close friend in Ypres, Belgium. The day after his friend died, he wrote a poem, ‘In Flanders Fields’, which became famous the world over, where he mentions the poppies that he had seen growing amidst the wartorn landscape, around the dead and dying and around the graves.
The flower was adopted as a symbol of those fallen in war and a campaign was set up to get the poppy adopted as a symbol of Remembrance in America, Canada, the UK and the Commonwealth.
Despite its known connection to the First World War, there were actually a number of references to poppies growing in war-torn landscapes where soldiers had fallen, many years before this, even as far back as during the Napoleonic wars.
Artificial Poppies for Charity
The Royal British Legion, a charity which had formed in 1921 to help war veterans with housing and providing jobs for them, took on the red poppy as its emblem.
They were persuaded to do so by a French lady called Anna Guérin, known as “The Poppy Lady from France”, who was planning on selling the poppies in London that year. She had made silk and cotton poppies in France and originated the selling of the poppies on ‘Poppy Day, with the proceeds going to help the widows and children of those who had fallen in the war. The Royal British Legion ordered 9 million poppies to sell on 11th November and they sold out almost immediately, raising £160,000 for the charity, which was a considerable sum in those days and obviously a huge success in helping the war veterans.
The annual Remembrance appeal now sells around 40 million poppies, raising around £25 million per year, for the charity – all made in a factory in England. A separate factory was built in Scotland and the Scottish poppies were made slightly differently from the ones in England – today each poppy is still hand-made in Scotland by ex-servicemen and sold via Poppyscotland.
Many of the artificial poppies bought and worn these days are exchanged for a charitable donation which goes towards helping current and ex-service people, whether it be financial or emotional support.
Remembrance Day/ Armistace Day/ Anzac Day
In the UK, Remembrance Day falls on the Sunday closest to Armistice Day, 11th November.
In the USA, the 11th November is called Veteran’s Day, although there the poppy symbol seems to have been replaced by yellow ribbon and red, white and blue ribbon campaigns instead.
In New Zealand and Australia, Anzac Day, on 25th April, is the national day of Remembrance and on this day poppies are sold for charities there.
Different Coloured Poppies
Red is the “traditional” colour used to commemorate those fallen in war. It is said that red poppy seed growth is aided by huge soil disruption, which, of course, occurred in those war-ravaged fields. The symbolism of the bloodshed by the fallen and the red of the poppy was also apparent to all.
There has been some controversy about wearing or being pressurised to wear the red poppy or red poppy jewellery, and other coloured poppies have been getting more attention. Some say the red poppy glorifies war, whilst the British Royal Legion say that it honours those who have sacrificed for war, including their families, and those that are still struggling after returning from conflict areas.
White poppies were created in 1933 to promote peace and a desire to end wars, whilst stating that remembering all victims of war is very important. The Peace Pledge Union still run the White Poppy Appeal today and around 100,000 white poppies have been bought and sold since 2014.
The Purple Poppy Appeal, run by ‘Animal Aid’, was started to raise awareness of the many innocent animals that have died in wars the world over. Many horses, dogs and pigeons were used, and died, in wars – around 8 million horses and donkeys died in World War I alone! Since 2016 the Purple Poppy has raised awareness of animals lost and those that still help in service via the website theyalsoserved.org. They have provided much support to animals, including 100 animal oxygen masks to the fire services across the UK and 75 cooling coats to Service dogs.
The Black Poppy has two meanings associated with it. The black poppy is said to highlight the sacrifices that black, African and Carribean communities made to the war efforts.
The Royal British Legion