poppiesLike many British and Commonwealth citizens, I have been wearing a poppy in my lapel for the past few days and will continue wearing it until Armistice Day (11 November). As a result, quite a few members and colleagues have asked me about its significance. It comes from a poem, In Flanders Fields, written by a Canadian doctor and Lieutenant Colonel, John McCrae, on 3 May 1915, after he’d witnessed the death of a close friend, just twenty-two years old, the previous day. You can read about McCrae and read the poem here.  The poppy which, like the cornflower, had bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders, came to symbolise the bloodshed and sacrifice of trench warfare. From there – and I quote from the Wikipedia account – ‘an American YMCA Overseas War Secretaries employee, Moina Michael, was inspired to make 25 silk poppies based on McCrae’s poem, which she distributed to attendees of the YMCA Overseas War Secretaries’ Conference. She then made an effort to have the poppy adopted as a national symbol of remembrance, and succeeded in having the National American Legion Conference adopt it two years later. At this conference, a Frenchwoman, Anna E. Guérin, was inspired to introduce the widely used artificial poppies given out today. In 1921 she sent her poppy sellers to London, England, where they were adopted by Field Marshall Douglas Haig, a founder of the Royal British Legion, as well as by veterans’ groups in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Nowadays, we wear the poppy to commemorate all the war dead, whenever and wherever they fell.