THE first donations for artificial poppies were given in Britain on November 11 1921, inspired by John McCrae's 1915 poem' In Flanders' Fields'.
Some of the bloodiest fighting of Word War One took place in the Flanders and Picardy regions of 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, wrote these verses in response to his experiences:
by John McCrae, May 1915
In Flanders' fields the
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 glows
Loved and there 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.
Moina Michael, an American War Secretary with the YMCA, was moved by McCrae's work to write:
And now the torch and Poppy red, wear in honour of our dead.
Miss Michael bought red poppies with money that had been given to her by work colleagues and sold them to her friends to raise a small amount of money for Servicemen in need. Her French colleague, Madame Guerin, proposed the making of artificial poppies and their sale to help ex-Servicemen and their dependants.
In Britain, Major George Howson, a young infantry officer, formed the Disabled Society to help disabled ex-Servicemen and women from World War One. Howson suggested to the Legion that members of the Disabled Society could make poppies and the Poppy Factory was subsequently founded in Richmond in 1922.
Today the Poppy Factory makes 36 million poppies, for lapels, wreaths and other items associated with the Poppy Appeal. The original poppy was designed so that workers with a disability could easily assemble it and that principle remains today. More than 70 per cent of Poppy Factory employees have a disability or chronic illness.
300,000 Poppy Appeal staff and volunteers organise the annual collection each October/November but donations to the Appeal raise only half of what the Legion spends each year on its welfare and benevolent work.
In 2000, the Poppy Appeal raised £20.1 million, the largest total ever. In 2001 the Legion aims to raise an even greater sum through donations for poppies, legacies, sponsorship, covenants, sales and fundraising events.
The Legion urges everyone to support the millions of people who need the Legion's help by wearing a poppy and making a donation to the Poppy Appeal. Call freephone 0845 845 1945 or visit the Legion's Poppy Appeal website at www.poppy.org.uk to make a donation. Donors do not have to give credit card or personal details as their online donation will be charged to their phone bill, making it a secure and easy way to support the Legion's vital work.
For information about the Legion or raising funds for the Poppy Appeal, contact Legion online 08457725725 or visit the Legion's website at www.britishlegion.org.uk
'Remembrance and observance of the Two Minute Silence should continue to feature strongly in the life of the nation every year: The under 15s are. strongly in favour of remembrance and recognise the Two Minute Silence as the 'right tribute' to those killed or injured in the service of their country'.