It’s that time of year again where people across the world don a poppy as a sign of remembrance. The most common poppy you will see is the red one, but increasingly over the last few years people have taken to wearing a white poppy instead. But what is the difference?
First of all, it is important to understand what Remembrance Day is. Often referred to as Armistice Day, this was the original name attributed to the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 when the Great War officially came to an end. The name of this day changed after the outbreak of WWII, when many countries decided this day would become the day to remember all those who died in the service of their country. Thus, the day became known to many as Remembrance Day. Many Commonwealth countries will hold services and commemoration events on both the 11th November and on the second Sunday in November.
One way many people tend to show their gratitude and silent contemplation of this time is to wear a poppy: you will have probably seen many ex- and current-service men and women selling them. The poppy flower was chosen because they are the flowers which grew on the battlefields after the First World War.
The red and the white poppy have a long history and both were conceived very soon after Armistice Day in 1918.
The red poppy was inspired by the very famous poem by Lt Col John McCrae, In Flanders Fields. It prompted American academic, Moina Michael, to make and sell red silk poppies, which were then brought to England by Anna Guérin. The Royal British Legion, formed in 1921, ordered nine million of these poppies and sold them on 11 November of their founding year. The poppies sold out almost immediately and since then the charity have launched the Poppy Appeal every year and the funds raised have been donated to war veterans. The red poppy stands for a symbol of remembering those who fought and of hope for the future.
The white poppy was created in 1933 by the Women’s Co-operative Guild, founded in 1883 to support their campaign against war and its promotion of nonviolence. The wearing of a white poppy on Armistice Day became a focus for the peace movement and the Peace Pledge Union adopted it in 1936 as a symbol of a person’s belief that war must not happen again and of grief. It started the ball rolling for the many Alternative Remembrance events that occur over the world which focus on pacifist resistance. The money raised from the White Poppy Appeal go towards war-resisters, conscientious objectors and civilian casualties of war.