Some of the bloodiest fighting of World War One took place in the Flanders and Picardy regions of Belgium and Northern France. The poppy was the only thing which grew in the aftermath of the complete devastation. McCrae, a doctor serving there with the Canadian Armed Forces, deeply inspired and moved by what he saw, wrote these verses:
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.
On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the First World War ended. Civilians wanted to remember the people who had given their lives for peace and freedom. An American War Secretary, Moina Michael, inspired by John McCrae's poem, began selling poppies to friends to raise money for the ex-Service community. And so the tradition began.
Image courtesy of the British Mini Club
"Lucky enough to have the Mini in the Merryhill shopping centre again ,there till Wednesday 11/11/15 paying respect to our servicemen and woman who have given and are prepared to give their ultimate sacrifice for the safety and protection of our great country. Wear your poppy with pride. Lest we forget."
Nottinghamshire Police shows support for the Poppy initiative
The winning poster by Forest Crescent Primary School in 2011 - wonderful simplicity and so evocative I decided to include this clever artwork as a tribute.
Page updated : 7th November 2016