Saturday, November 12, 2011

Symbol of Remembrance

To put it politely, I feel very cross! I have lived in the UK since 1980 and in all that time I have not heard such a commotion about poppies -- the wearing of them, that is. Each year little red paper poppies are sold by the Royal British Legion. All the money raised goes to the Benevolent Fund which helps to support ex-service men and women in a variety of ways.

This year the media have produced a ruckus by implying that people are being made to feel they have to wear a poppy whether they want to or not. The 'people' they mean are the presenters politicians who are all seen to be wearing them for several weeks before Remembrance Sunday, which is held on the Sunday nearest to November 11. It would seem that the row erupted last year with Channel 4 news anchor Jon Snow criticized for not wearing a poppy. He referred to the public demands as 'poppy fascism' and that perhaps was not the wisest choice of words. He chooses to wear his on Remembrance Sunday alone.

But the 'discussion' has escalated. For example, yesterday, Telegraph columnist Vicki Woods wrote about how it 'drives me to distraction' when people wear their poppies too early -- even before November! Here, I must confess to being one of 'those people'. The reason is quite simple -- I saw poppies for sale and I bought one and as they are rather delicate I pinned it on my coat so it wouldn't get crushed and have left it there. Vicki, I ask you, why should that drive you to distraction? And in equal measure, why should wearing one or not cause offence? Surely we do not need arguments about who wears a poppy and who does not, nor argument about wearing it for one day or many.

For me, the poppy is not a symbol of patriotism or even support of the military. It is a symbol of remembrance -- for all on either side of wars. It is a symbol of blood and grief and I find the ceremonies on this  Sunday very moving and poignant. The poppies grew on both sides of the battle line ...

The words of John McCrae seem appropriate now:

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

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing 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.


  1. Broad, I reckon fascism is as fascism does in this case. Although like you, I buy and wear a poppy every year without fail, I don't believe anyone should be criticised or put under pressure for wearing or for not wearing one. The poppy is a symbol and I hope most people will choose to buy and wear one, but there should be no sense of compulsion or the wearing of it loses its meaning.

  2. I'm with you all the way,


  3. While travelling the French countryside, I was delighted to see field after field of poppies. And, like you, I thought...'what a beautiful remembrance.' Loved you piece!

  4. Google had a different icon, a yellow ribbon around an oak tree, a sentimental song popular a few decades ago. Mostly, the American flag is the symbol here for Remembrance Day on the 11th of November.
    It's irritating how the pressure to conform hits us everywhere.

  5. The poppy is for me that symbol of remembrance, and I treat the money I donate to but some poppies as a really good cause.

    Methinks they doth protest too much ....

  6. Perpetua: It does amaze and frustrate me how such a simple thing as wearing a poppy can cause such a heated debate ... Today was particularly moving in church as there were so many people, particularly scouts -- the building, was packed. I understand this was the case throughout the country...

  7. Rosaria: Interesting that Google should pick the yellow ribbon. I looked up countries that wear the poppy and was surprised at how many there are -- even the U.S. I remembered that as a child my father were wear a poppy on Veterans Day and then it disappeared from use -- or seemed to and flags were used more and more. Personally, I prefer the universality of the simple poppy ...

  8. Gaynor: I agree the money for the poppy is a very good cause.

  9. G'day Broad. In Australia the poppy is the symbol for Remembrance Day and I can't say that I have ever heard any comments about people wearing them too early. It's a sign of respect to wear your poppy. Great post. Take care. Liz...


Receiving comments is a joy and I thank you all for taking the trouble and showing your interest. Makes me feel all gooey and stuff!