why do we have red poppies for remembrance day

The poppy has a long association with Remembrance Day. But how did the distinctive red flower become such a potent symbol of our remembrance of the sacrifices made in past wars? Scarlet corn poppies (popaver rhoeas) grow naturally in conditions of disturbed earth throughout Western Europe. The destruction brought by the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th Century transformed bare land into fields of blood red poppies, growing around the bodies of the fallen soldiers. In late 1914, the fields of Northern France and Flanders were once again ripped open as World War One raged through Europe's heart.


Once the conflict was over the poppy was one of the only plants to grow on the otherwise barren battlefields. The significance of the poppy as a lasting memorial symbol to the fallen was realised by the Canadian surgeon John McCrae in his poem In Flanders Fields. The poppy came to represent the immeasurable sacrifice made by his comrades and quickly became a lasting memorial to those who died in World War One and later conflicts.


It was adopted by The Royal British Legion as the symbol for their, in aid of those serving in the British Armed Forces, after its formation in 1921.
The poppy is the enduring symbol of remembrance of the First World War. It is strongly linked with Armistice Day (11 November), but the poppy's origin as a popular symbol of remembrance lies in the landscapes of the First World War. Poppies were a common sight, especially on the Western Front.


They flourished in the soil churned up by the fighting and shelling. The flower provided Canadian doctor John McCrae with inspiration for his poem 'In Flanders Fields', which he wrote whilst serving in Ypres in 1915. It was first published in Punch, having been rejected by The Spectator. In 1918, in response to McCrae's poem, American humanitarian Moina Michael wrote 'And now the Torch and Poppy Red, we wear in honor of our deadв'.


She campaigned to make the poppy a symbol of remembrance of those who had died in the war. Artificial poppies were first sold in Britain in 1921 to raise money for the Earl Haig Fund in support of ex-servicemen and the families of those who had died in the conflict. They were supplied by Anna GuГrin, who had been manufacturing the flowers in France to raise money for war orphans. Selling poppies proved so popular that in 1922 the British Legion founded a factory - staffed by disabled ex-servicemen - to produce its own.


It continues to do so today. Other charities sell poppies in different colours, each with their own meaning but all to commemorate the losses of war. White poppies, for example, symbolise peace without violence and purple poppies are worn to honour animals killed in conflict. The poppy continues to be sold worldwide to raise money and to remember those who lost their lives in the First World War and in subsequent conflicts.