Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friend. John 15:13
It is bright. It is bold. It is something to behold. These resilient flowers flourished in the middle of so much chaos and destruction, growing in the thousands upon thousands. It also serves as an important symbol to our veterans, honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The red poppy. In the spring of 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lt. Colonel John McCrae was so moved by the sight of these poppies growing in the midst of such bleakness, that it inspired him to write the now famous poem, “In Flanders Field.”
This poem then inspired an American academic named Moina Michael to adopt the poppy in memory of those who had fallen in the war. She campaigned to get it adopted as an official symbol of remembrance across the United States and worked with others who were trying to do the same in Canada, Australia, and the UK. Also involved with those efforts was a French woman, Anna Guerin, who was in the UK in 1921 where she planned to sell poppies in London.
There she met Earl Haig, founder of the Royal British Legion, who was persuaded to adopt the poppy as an emblem for the Legion in the UK. The Legion, which had been formed in 1921, ordered nine million poppies and sold them on 11 November of that year. The poppies sold out almost immediately. The first “Poppy Appeal” raised over 106,000 pounds to help veterans with housing and jobs—a considerable sum at the time. Today’s “Poppy Appeal” consists of 40,000 volunteers who distribute 40 million poppies.
In view of how rapidly the poppies had sold and wanting to ensure plenty of poppies for the next appeal, Major George Howson set up the Poppy Factory to employ disabled ex-servicemen. Today, the factory and the Legion’s warehouse in Aylesford produces millions of poppies each year.
The demand for poppies in England continued unabated and was so high, that few poppies actually managed to reach Scotland. To address the growing demand, Earl Haig’s wife, Dorothy, established the “Lady Haig Poppy Factory” in Edinburgh in 1926 to produce poppies exclusively for Scotland.
Remembrance today is very different than it was 100 years ago. Yet, people take part whatever their political or religious beliefs. The poppy remains a humble, poignant symbol of remembrance and hope.
Now that the history lesson is done, it’s time to stop and smell the flowers. Isn’t nature even prettier when it represents such a beautiful story? Blessings, Chris