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The Importance of Wearing a Poppy

Posted On: 11/05/2015
The red poppy grows wild in many fields in northern France and Belgium. It grows in Flanders Field, where, on a fateful day in the May of 1915, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian Doctor fighting in the First World War, reflected on the death of his friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer. The cross that marked Lt. Alexis Helmer’s grave was one of many that dotted Flanders Field, where the poppy grew in great numbers in the spoiled earth of battlefields and cemeteries, and it inspired McCrae to write the poem In Flanders Fields. 

In Flanders Fields appeared anonymously in Punch in the December of 1915, and quickly became one of the most popular poems of the war, used in fundraising campaigns, translated to other languages, and even printed in the United States, which was on the fence about joining the war. 

Moina Michael, an American educator and humanitarian, came across John McCrae’s poem on November 9, 1918, two days before the Armistice was declared. Touched, she bought 25 red poppies, keeping one for herself and giving the rest away to delegates at the YMCA Overseas Secretaries’ Conference in New York, where she was on duty. After this, Moina put all her energy towards getting the Poppy Emblem adopted as the national memorial symbol in the U.S. 

In September of 1920, at the National American Legion Convention, her efforts were rewarded and the poppy was adopted as the national emblem of remembrance. Madame Anna Guerin was also present at the convention, and brought Moina’s idea from the U.S. to the world, visiting Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, all of whom adopted the Poppy Emblem in the 1920s.

Artificial poppies were first sold in Britain in 1921 to raise money for the Earl Haig Fund in support of ex-servicemen and the families of those who had died in the conflict. Selling poppies proved so popular that in 1922 the British Legion founded a factory - staffed by disabled ex-servicemen - to produce its own. It continues to do so today. In Canada, donations in exchange for poppies directly support Canada’s serving and retired Veterans, and their families. 

By wearing a poppy, we support our countrymen who have lost their lives in battle, and show our continued support for Canada’s Armed Forces. This Remembrance Day, please wear a poppy.

Village at Griesbach is honoured to pay tribute to Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae and the 100th Anniversary of In Flanders Fields through the commemoration of Flanders Fields Park at Village at Griesbach, as a site where the public can reflect upon this iconic poem, and as a place of remembrance.