Field of poppies in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Goldberg, Germany 170619 CREDIT DPA, PA
Remembrance

Why Do We Wear Poppies For Remembrance?

The poppy has been a symbol of sacrifice since the First World War.

Field of poppies in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Goldberg, Germany 170619 CREDIT DPA, PA

During this period of Remembrance, annual appeals for the public to wear poppies have been launched.

The Royal British Legion, which supports serving and former British personnel, has continued to fund its efforts by creating and selling the symbols nationwide, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But what is the story behind the poppy? 

Often associated with Armistice Day, the poppy's origin as a symbol of remembrance remains in the landscapes of the First World War.

Helen Mavin, curator at the Imperial War Museum, explained the reasons behind the symbol:

"Poppies were a common sight, especially on the Western Front. They flourished in the soil churned up by the fighting and shelling."

The flower provided inspiration for Canadian doctor and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, author of inspirational poem 'In Flanders Fields', written whilst serving in Ypres in 1915.

The poem inspired American War Secretary, Moina Michael, who bought poppies to sell to her friends to raise money for servicemen in need after the First World War.

The Chief of the Defence Staff was part of the London Poppy Day launch last week (Picture: MOD).

Artificial poppies were first sold in Britain in 1921 to raise money for the Earl Haig Fund in support of ex-servicemen and the families of those who had died in the conflict.

Nine million poppies were ordered and sold on 11 November that year in the first-ever Poppy Appeal.

The poppy has been adopted as a symbol of remembrance ever since.

Poppies were in such high demand from that point on that their manufacture and sale went from strength to strength.

In 1922, the British Legion founded a factory run and maintained by disabled ex-servicemen, to produce its own, marking the dawn of a tradition that continues to this day.

Last year, the 24-strong team at The Poppy Factory, in Richmond, made 6,000,000 poppies, 146,000 poppy wreaths, and 780,000 wooden remembrance symbols.

Other charities sell poppies in different colours, each with their own meaning, but all to commemorate the losses of war.

White poppies symbolise peace without violence and purple poppies are worn to honour animals killed in conflict.

The poppy continues to be sold worldwide to raise money and to remember those who lost their lives in the First World War and in subsequent conflicts.

Cover image: DPA/PA.