Do Military Personnel Have To Wear A Poppy For Remembrance?

A symbol of Remembrance since 1921, recent criticisms have called into question whether our serving personnel have to wear the poppy. 

Despite the original sentiment behind the poppy, in recent years many have started to question what it represents (Picture: Royal Navy).

The poppy has been a symbol of Remembrance since 1921, but recent criticisms have called into question what it now represents, and whether our serving personnel have to wear it. 

Why do we wear the poppy during Remembrance?

The poppy serves as a simple reminder of those who gave their lives in the war.

The symbol stems from the poppies that grew on the battlefield after the end of the First World War, as described in the poem “In Flanders Fields”.

The poppy has since grown to represent not just those who sacrificed their lives in the Great War, but all those who have died during later conflicts.

The money raised by the Poppy Appeal is used to help current servicemen and women, whose lives have been changed by wars that they fought in.

When did the tradition start?

The Royal British Legion first sold poppies in 1921.

They sold out almost straight away and raised more than £100,000 for the those who had been affected by the war.

In 1922 a factory was set up, where disabled soldiers were employed to make the poppies.

This factory is still running and produces millions of poppies every year.

What is the etiquette?

There is no definitive answer to this.

Some say the poppy should be worn from 31 October, while others say you should wear it in the 11 days leading up to Remembrance Day. Some believe you shouldn't wear one until after Bonfire Night.

The positioning of the poppy can also cause some confusion.

Many say the poppy should be worn on one's left to be close to the heart, as well as the side of military medals. Others say men should wear it on the left and women on the right, just like the Queen.

The Royal British Legion, however, told BBC: "There is no right or wrong way to wear a poppy. It is a matter of personal choice whether an individual chooses to wear a poppy and also how they choose to wear it.

"The best way to wear a poppy is to wear it with pride."

Wearing the poppy in the military

According to the Army, Royal Navy and RAF dress regulations, the standard fabric poppy supporting the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal can be worn as a personal choice on all uniforms from the first day of the Poppy Appeal until Armistice Day.

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that wearing the poppy, however, is not obligatory. 

During the National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, personnel on parade do not wear a poppy as it is not a part of their formal uniform.

The service Chiefs in attendance do.

Early poppies were originally made from silk (Picture: Royal Navy).

Poppy controversies

Despite the original sentiment behind the poppy, in recent years many have started to question what it represents.

Some, including RAF veteran Harry Leslie Smith, believe the poppy has been misappropriated by politicians, who use it to justify conflicts. 

Others, such as veteran and Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow, reject to wearing symbols at work.

Mr Snow also added that he felt there was "a rather unpleasant breed of poppy fascism out there - 'he damned well must wear a poppy!'".

Pacifists are also against the poppy.

white poppy - wikipedia
The Peace Pledge Union, an anti-war group founded in 1934, produces a white poppy, as some are "concerned about the poppy's association with military power and the justification of war", as they state on their website (Picture: Nankai/Wikimedia Commons).

So, the Remembrance poppy is certainly a contentious issue, but whether our military personnel want to wear it remains a personal choice.