It’s November, and the little red poppies are colouring winter lapels. It’s a bit of bright red cheer in the gloom of approaching winter. I came across Pops just by chance on a walk about. Pops was made by a wife of one of the members of the Royal British Legion. She used 1,000 poppies to make him. Sadly, she has since passed, but Pops proudly sits on his XT500 Motor Bike, originally built some 31 years ago. His roaring bike rebuilt by Neil, who whilst selling poppies, told me that the bike came back home in bags, all the motor parts in bits and pieces. All of this hard work was done with such care and compassion for the Poppy Appeal.
I’ve always worn a red poppy, knowing it was for Remembrance Day, but I never gave it much serious thought as a child. It was something we just did. But, the Royal British Legion’s mission statement, bears mentioning, it reads:
Our Mission is to provide welfare, comradeship, representation, and remembrance for the Armed Forces Community.
It’s a simple statement, but when you start to dig behind its true meaning, it is simply overwhelming. War is overwhelming.
It’s a horrible thing war. I can’t imagine anything worse. Those men and women who went into service, gave so much, from the men shivering and trembling in the wet muddy trenches, to the women at home, holding down the home front, keeping things ticking over, whilst wondering if their son or their beloved would ever return. The brave letters sent from the front belied the misery the men suffered in their battle to end injustice and protect their loved ones and our country. No one comes home from war untouched. No one escapes its cruel hand, be it those who go into action, or those left behind.
The Royal British Legion is a charity that supports those that gave so much for us, gave such things that we can never repay their service to our country, from their sleepless nights with nightmares that never end, missing limbs, and missing lives. The totality of war is something that can never be fully calculated or even repaid.
It was the First World War, which was so hoped to be the ‘war that ends all wars’ that the little poppy became a symbol of hope and remembrance. In the devastation of Flanders Fields, left devoid of life, trees, buildings, roads, and lives that were simply wiped away, the little poppy bloomed through the mud and misery.
A Canadian Doctor John McCrae came across the fields in full bloom, and the experience so moved him that he wrote in his notebook his famous poem, In Flanders Fields and brought to millions the horrors of the war.
In 1918, although the war was over, the scars were still fresh and raw, an American War Secretary, Moira Michael wrote her poem, We Shall Keep The Faith, in which she vowed to wear a red poppy to remember the dead. She began the practice of selling red poppies for remembrance.
It was in 1922 when Major George Howson, a young infantry officer, formed the Disabled Society. He suggested to the Royal British Legion that their Society make the red little poppies which we wear today. The poppies were so designed that they could be put together by workers with disabilities, and so England’s Poppy Factory in Richmond, was born in 1922.
We have not escaped the horrors of war, we have not yet achieved that dream of peace and until we do, there will always be men and women in need of a loving hand, a kind word, an offer of help to return from the madness of war to daily life, and this little poppy, raising money for those so in need, will with its cheerful face and promise of hope, aids those so desperately in need. It is with sincere gratitude that I thank the men and women who gave their lives for our safety and to those in harm’s way today, I wish your safe return home and send you wishes from a nation that is proud of your efforts and ever grateful.
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.