But Why a Poppy?
Throughout the world the poppy is associated with the remembrance of those who died in order that we may be free, but how many of us are aware of the reason of how and why the poppy became the symbol of remembrance and an integral part of the work of the Royal British Legion?
Flanders is the name of the whole western part of Belgium. It saw some of the most concentrated and bloodiest fighting of the First World War. There was complete devastation. Buildings, roads, trees and natural life simply disappeared. Where once there were homes and farms there was now a sea of mud - a grave for the dead where men still lived and fought. Only one other living thing survived. The poppy flowering each year with the coming of the warm weather brought life, hope, colour and reassurance to those still fighting.
Poppies only flower in rooted up soil. Their seeds can lay in the ground for years without germinating, and only grow after the ground has been disturbed.
“In Flanders Field”
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 sunsets 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
John McCrae, MD (1872 – 1918)