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Remembered Today:

THE POPPY


Matthew
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My Cub Scouts will be learning about Remembrance next week and making tissue paper poppies for the memorial in Church.

My understanding is that poppies were one of the first flowers to grow on the battlefields after the battle and that they were then immortalised in McCrae's poem. I don't want to give the lads duff gen so have I got it right?

TIA

M

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As I understand it, poppies grow best in soil that has been well dug up. And bombs do that rather well as we all know.

I read on a website that the association with poppies and the battlefield was not new to the Great War, but had been noted previously in the Napoleonic wars. But I've not found the actual source of that association.

Anyway, there is a colour photo from 1915 (the same year McCrae wrote the poem) showing poppies in French trenches on the site 'The Heritage of the Great War'. You can see it here with the tag: "French trench with a donkey and poppies

This is the only color picture known to show poppies on the battlefield.

The picture is made in 1915 by an official French war photographer. "

If scroll down the menu on the lefthandside of the page you'll get a link to a good write up about the writing of the poem &etc 'John McCrae´s Poppies in Flanders Fields'.

Allie

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Ahoj!

Poppies are "pioneer plants". They are among the first to "move in" where other vegetation has been destroyed.

The land at my parent's summerhouse which, before they bought it, used to be a potato field, for the first few years after cultivation ceased was overrun by poppies, before these were edged out by other plants.

My father not being a fan of lawns had let 90% of the land to be reclaimed naturaly :)

Borys

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From a booklet the RBL sent with their collection tin this year:

McCrae's poem (Flanders Fields) was inspired by him seeing them flower every year despite the carnage etc. His poem inspired Moina Michael (American War Secretary) who sold poppies to freinds to raise money for ex servicemen, so starting the tradition.

In 1922 Major George Howson MC founded the Disabled Society and a small factory making artificial ones, which later became the RBL factory.

The 1st RBL Poppy Day was 11-11-1921.

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Your boys may not be interested - but who knows! - that New Zealand doesn't have poppies for Remembrance Day in November. We have them in April, for Anzac Day. And April 25th is when our cubs and scouts and girl guides, together with the Armed Services and Returned Service men and women, march and lay wreaths.

This isn't because we think more about war dead on Anzac Day, but purely because back in 1921, the boat bringing the poppies to New Zealand from France was late, so they saved them to have the following April instead. Australia got their poppies in time, and continue to have poppies in November like they do in the UK and Canada etc... but we've kept the tradition of having them for April 25th.

Allie

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Allie,

Thanks for that.

Chaps,

Are the poppies the same design across the Commonwealth? Do they use them in America and Canada? Lots of questions coming out of this thread; helps me be ready for my smarter Cubs!

M

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Our most recent incarnation is pretty similar to yours I think, Matthew, but without the leaf I saw on the BBC tonight.

Allie

post-13541-1162897299.jpg

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Flicking through the pages of 'BBC History' magazine whilst sitting in the dentists(arrggghhh!!!) this morning I came across the following article and thought it would be OK to post here, cheers, Jon

Three women pack cloth poppies into boxes in 1921 to be sold on Armistice Day. The association of poppies with the First World War began with the popular poem 'Flanders' Fields, by John McCrae, which opens with "In Flanders' fields the poppies blow". In 1920 aid-worker Moina Michael persuaded the American legion to adopt the poppy as their official symbol. Madam Guerin, from Provance, touched by the poem and stirred by Michael's example, visited the British and Canadian Legions, and in 1921 they too took the poppy as their symbol. Gurin arranged for her organisation, the American and French Children's League, to make the poppies, with money going to help-war ruined areas in Europe. The first 'Poppy Day' was on 11 November 1921 and raised £106.000. That first year the poppies were made in France, but Major Howsen suggested using disabled ex-service people. A design was created so that people with one hand could make them. The 'Poppy Factory' was set up in Richmond in 1922, where they are still made today.

(Emily Maylon-Roberts)

post-15439-1162903362.jpg

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Thanks,

I used to live quite near the poppy factory up on Richmond Hill.

You are getting me going on this :) are there German and French equivalents?

This is going to end up as a three hour Pack night :lol:

M

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When I was in Germany last year visiting a friend, we went to the U-boat memorial near Kiel. I asked about whether or not they had a remembrance day etc, and he said 'no'. I'm guessing because of guilt and that the wars - WW2 in particular - were their fault.

I have a feeling I read somewhere that during the war itself, German poets and writers used trees as imagery rather than flowers. But it's a little difficult to wear a tree in your buttonhole!

I think you need a German to answer this one, so ignore me babbling.

Allie

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If you can obtain a copy of "The Great War and Modern Memory" by Paul Fussell, there is an interesting and thought-provoking discussion on the use of the poppy symbol in Chapter VII, Arcadian Resources. Other flowers are mentioned too.

If you're desperate I might be able to scan it for you. I haven't got time to re-read and summarise adequately at the moment.

Gwyn

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The French, I believe, use Le Bleuet (spelling?) or Cornflower. I have a lovely pin badge, given to me by the French equivalent of the RBL after I did the RBL London-Paris bike ride a few years ago.

No idea, however, of when, where, or how widely it is worn.

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The French, I believe, use Le Bleuet (spelling?) or Cornflower.

See here. It links to the website of the Office national des Anciens Combattants et victimes de guerre.

I've seen bleuets on sale at Natzwiller-Struthof concentration camp in the Vosges, where people seemed to buy then wear them in remembrance.

Gwyn

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Dragon,

Thank you for your offer of more detail but don't trouble yourself. I just want to make sure that the Cubs understand 'Remembrance' and how the Poppy fits in.

A neighbour is just about to publish a booklet about our Village's dead and the plan is that we will sit around the memorial (see attached) as he puts faces to names. Then I'm going to ask the Cubs to choose a name and make a poppy just for that individual. Hopefully this will help them relate to lads who went to the same school and played in the same fields etc.

post-1308-1162974916.jpg

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Pleased to report that we had a very successful Pack Night. The Cubs made poppoies and we talked about their significance. Then we went into church and sat around the memorial pictured above. Roy Skilbeck, who has just written a booklet on the Village's dead, talked about the names. He described where they lived, where they went to school, the fact that many were baptised in the church and attended Bible class there. The Cubs were very attentive; one of them realised that he used to live in the house where one of the names did.

To finish off each Cub chose a name from the memorial and dedicated his poppy to that name. We agreed that from now on that name will be special to the Cub, a special friend if you like, to remember.

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To finish off each Cub chose a name from the memorial and dedicated his poppy to that name. We agreed that from now on that name will be special to the Cub, a special friend if you like, to remember.

It sounds like you did an excellent job helping the children understand the significance of poppy day, Matthew. And I love the idea of them keeping one name to be special to them. Maybe it might be possible to get a photo of each person in time for next year?

Allie

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Allie,

Thanks for that.

Chaps,

Are the poppies the same design across the Commonwealth? Do they use them in America and Canada?

M

Photos of Canadian and New Zealand poppies have been posted. The Australians have their own poppy, and so do the Scots.

The Americans wear a poppy too, but I get the impression that it is not that widely known today. I have some with year "tabs" from the 1920s. More recently I had to ask a number of Americans before I found one that had heard of the poppy and knew where it was on sale locally. Locally being near a big military base in North Carolina. The Americans also wear/wore a blue "Forget Me Not" flower marked as being made by disabled veterans. My example dates from the early 1970s, so this tradition could have lapsed.

South Africa is interesting. I tried for several years to obtain South African poppies and finally did so via a member of this forum. When they arrived I found that they were standard English poppies that had been imported to South Africa. I believe I am correct in saying that there is no exact South African equivalent to the British Legion, so poppies are imported by Regimental Associations and, possibly the MOTHs.

The Transvaal Scottish sell a very nice poppy made of small beads. Beadwork being a local - Zulu? - craft.

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Allie,

I know that Roy has collected photos for his booklet and I'm toying with the idea of getting one of those multi facet picture frames and making a 'picture memorial' for the school.

M

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I have been surprised to find that the poppy as a symbol of remembrance is not that well known in France. Have been asked more than once why “all the English people are wearing red flowers”.

I was once chatting with some locals in a bar in Lievin. I used to have a bit of a mental block on the French word for poppy, and tried to describe it in various roundabout ways in my less than fluent French. Grows in cornfields? “Ah, le bleuet!” Tried again: “On les voit toujours dans les cimetieres britanniques.” Dawning comprehension. They all nodded sagely. “Ah oui! Les roses!”

Everyone there had always been under the impression that they represented roses (an English symbol, after all). So we all learnt something – I never forgot the word “coquelicot” again!

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The poppies used in Malta are all imported by the local branch of the Royal British Legion for Remembrance Day. Those seen in the military cemeteries throughout the year are brought over by overseas visitors for their own personal needs.

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