This Sunday is Remembrance Sunday which commemorates the anniversary of the Armistice which ended the First World War on 11th November 1918.
It is traditional to wear a poppy as a symbol of remembrance for all of those who died serving their country during war. It was chosen because as the Great War ended, the poppies were flowering in the fields of Flanders. This was where much of the brutal trench warfare took place. This scene inspired the Canadian physician, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae to write the famous poem, “In Flanders Fields”. Here is the first verse:
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.
In recognition of the many animals that gave their lives in the service of war, albeit without any choice in the matter, there is the Animals in War Memorial in Hyde Park, London. There is also the Dickin Medal which has been awarded to many animals including dogs, cats and pigeons. This is Rip, an Air Raid Precaution Dog who was awarded the Dickin Medal for his services during World War II.
The poppy is also famous for the opiates that are produced from the seeds and used legitimately for medicinal morphine. However, it is perhaps ironic that the poppy is now being grown in the killing fields of Afghanistan to fuel the drugs trade and fund terrorism. The idea that the First World War was the war to end all wars now seems ridiculously naive.
In the UK Remembrance Poppies are sold by the Royal British Legion with the money spent on welfare projects to assist service men and women. The wearing of such poppies is not an endorsement of any war past or present.