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.
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, 1915
Since the end of the First World War, inspired by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s poem ‘In Flanders Fields’, poppies have come to represent a symbol of remembrance for those who served in that conflict. A tradition that first began in America in 1918, the poppy as a flower is significant due to the fact that they were the first flowers to grow in the ruined landscape of Flanders.
Following their introduction and subsequent elevation to symbolic status, poppies have become inextricably connected in the United Kingdom to the sacrifices of servicemen and women from all conflicts, past and present. The Royal British Legion are the charity responsible for the production and distribution of poppies in the UK, they describe them as “worn to commemorate the sacrifices of our Armed Forces and to show support to those still serving today.”
Some other nations who at the time of the conflict were a part of Britain’s Empire, such as Canada, also observe the tradition of wearing poppies as a sign of remembrance of those who fought in the Great War, usually around Armistice or Remembrance Day, the 11th of November.
For more information on the Poppy Appeal in the UK, visit the Royal British Legion’s website.