FIVE THINGS ABOUT POPPIES ON REMEMBRANCE DAY

It's been suggested of late that a certain action author should stay off Facebook and get on with finishing the third installment of the Intrepid series, but there is good reason to be blogging. At 11 am on November 11, 95 years ago, the guns of the Western Front fell silent and the First World War came to an end. The great significance of the moment has been marked at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. So I want to take a moment to honour all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice during World War I and every conflict since. 

Like many ex-servicemen, Remembrance Day has particular significance not only to reflect on my own service but as a time to remember and honour those among my family and friends who have served and a number of my close friends who continue to serve in harm's way. When I look around at remembrance services now and see how young our new generation of veterans are my wish is that they receive the greatest levels of support and recognition that we can provide them throughout their lives. They deserve our utmost respect, gratitude and care.

The red poppy, the symbol of remembrance, has been worn on Remembrance Day in the United States and Commonwealth countries since 1920/21. The distinctive red poppies were among the first to flower in the devastated battlefields of northern France and Belgium in the First World War. 

Here’s five things you may not know about the poppy:

Five Things about Remembrance Day 11.11.13

1. Their symbolism

In English literature of the nineteenth century, poppies had symbolised sleep or a state of oblivion; in literature of the First World War a new, more powerful symbolism was attached to the poppy – the sacrifice of shed blood.

2. The literary reference

In Flanders Fields, a poem by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian serving at Ypres, describes the poppies that marked the ground where soldiers fell during the fighting. 

The sight of poppies on the battlefield at Ypres in 1915 moved Lieutenant Colonel McCrae to write the poem, now synonymous with Remembrance Day.

3. Their location

Poppies tend to grow where the earth has been disturbed, which is all the more poignant when we know they are growing upon such sacred ground.

4. In remembrance

The poppy is now used as a common reference to the dead who rest in Flanders Fields and elsewhere across the world. It is to keep alive their memory as well as of the cause for which they laid down their lives. There is more information about the red poppy tradition at this link.

5. In folklore

In soldiers’ folklore, the vivid red of the poppy was directly linked to the blood of comrades that had soaked the ground.

No matter your political persuasion or views on wars past and current, I hope you can take a minute this Remembrance Day, 11.11.13, to pay your respects to the men and women who have given their all.

Lest We Forget.

In Flanders Fields

by LtCol John McCrae

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 Dead. Short days ago 
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie 
In Flanders fields.

Take up your quarrel with the foe; 
To you from falling 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. 

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