There is probably not a symbol in the entire world that is as recognizable as the red poppy on Remembrance Day. It signifies sacrifice and bloodshed yet also the ability for peace in the re-growth of societies and communities as peace blooms, and the ultimate price paid by those who gave their lives for that freedom.
This symbol came to be from a poem that was written by a Canadian doctor named Lieutenant Colonel John McRae. McRae originally saw service in South Africa in 1899 and returned home to Canada to become a prominent doctor it at the age of 41 and at the outbreak of World War I he reenlisted not as a volunteer into the medical corps but as an artillery gunmen with the first 18,000 soldiers of the Canadian First Division near Ypres and the last Belgium city not to fall to the Germans. McRae new the horrors of war and furthermore realized with the mechanization and the advancement in artillery that this would be a war of devastating proportions. McCrae wrote to his mother of the battle of the Ypres and its devastation as if he were in a nightmare. A fighting compatriot that McCrae had taken under his wing had died on May 2, 1915 as a result of the artillery fire constant during the battle. It was during the next day is McCrae sat on the back of an ambulance watching the carnage unfold around him that he penned the first few lines of “In Flanders Fields”.
The Spread of the Poem
McCrae finished the poem a field hospital in France a few days later and sent it off to the spectator in London for publication where it was promptly rejected. The journalist visiting the hospital where McRae was stationed however took the poem back to Punch magazine and published it in December 1915. It quickly became the most popular poem of the war. The poem starts:
“In Flanders Fields the poppies blow, between the crosses row on row”
John McRae died of pneumonia in 1918 and never returned home. The poem was meant to signify that rebirth and life can spring from even the worst devastating conditions as John McRae noticed the poppies flowering all over the devastated fields during that horrendous spring.
Origins of the Poppy
The idea of wearing poppies is a symbol to remember the sacrifices of soldiers given in war was started in 1918 by Moina Michael, an American who wrote a poem in response called We Shall Keep the Faith in which she promises to wear a poppy to remember the fallen heroes of World War I. Madame Guerin, French YMCA secretary, conceived the idea of selling silk poppies in order to help needy soldiers also in 1918, and so the idea of wearing a poppy spread quickly and globally. Today the poppy is still worn to remember all sacrifice given in times of war to those brave men and women that will never be returned to their families.
Support your relatives and ancestors that font and died for your freedom by wearing a red poppy on Remembrance Day. For more information, please visit: remembrance day poppies.