THE STORY OF THE POPPY

THE STORY OF THE POPPY

The unveiling of the Cenotaph, London 11th November 1920. Designed by Edwin Lutyens

THE FLANDERS POPPY WAS FIRST DESCRIBED AS THE FLOWER OF REMEMBRANCE BY COLONEL JOHN McCRAE, IN PEACETIME A WELL KNOWN PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE AT McGILL UNIVERSITY IN MONTREAL.

HE HAD SERVED AS A GUNNER IN THE SOUTH AFRICAN WAR AND AT THE OUTBREAK OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR WISHED TO JOIN THE FIGHTING RANKS. HOWEVER THE POWERS THAT BE DECIDED HE COULD BE USED TO GREATER ADVANTAGE AND SO HE LANDED IN FRANCE AS A MEDICAL OFFICER WITH THE FIRST CANADIAN CONTINGENT.

AT THE SECOND BATTLE OF YPRES IN BELGIUM IN 1915 HE WAS IN CHARGE OF A SMALL FIRST - AID POST. DURING A LULL IN THE ACTION HE SCRIBBLED DOWN IN PENCIL, ON A PAGE TORN FROM HIS NOTE BOOK THE FOLLOWING VERSES:
      
                                      IN FLANDER'S 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 YOU BREAK FAITH WITH US WHO DIE
                                         WE SHALL NOT SLEEP, THOUGH POPPIES
                                       GROW IN FLANDERS FIELDS.

IN JANUARY 1918, TOWARDS THE END OF THE WAR, COLONEL JOHN McCRAE WAS BROUGHT AS A STRETCHER CASE TO ONE OF THE BIG HOSPITALS ON THE CHANNEL COAST OF FRANCE. ON THE THIRD EVENING HE HAD BEEN WHEELED ONTO THE BALCONY OF HIS ROOM AND HE WAS LOOKING TOWARDS THE CLIFFS OF DOVER WHEN HE TURNED TO THE DOCTOR WITH THE WORDS;   

                                                      TELL THEM THIS
                         IF YE BREAK FAITH WITH US WHO DIE, WE SHALL NOT SLEEP

THE SAME NIGHT COLONEL McCRAE DIED AND HE WAS BURIED IN A BEAUTIFUL CEMETERY ON RISING GROUND ABOVE WIMEREUX, FROM WHERE THE CLIFFS OF DOVER ARE VISIBLE ON A CLEAR DAY.

AN AMERICAN WOMAN NAMED MOINA MICHAEL, WHO WORKED FOR THE YMCA, HAD READ AND HAD BEEN DEEPLY IMPRESSED BY JOHN McCRAE'S POEM. THE WEARING OF A POPPY SEEMED AN APPROPRIATE WAY TO KEEP THE FAITH. SHE WROTE THIS REPLY;

                                                       OH! YOU WHO SLEEP 
                                                       IN FLANDERS FIELDS
                                                SLEEP SWEET-TO RISE ANEW;
                                              WE CAUGHT THE TORCH YOU THREW
                                                   AND HOLDING HIGH WE KEPT
                                                 THE FAITH OF THOSE WHO DIED

                                               WE CHERISH TOO THE POPPY RED
                                               WEAR IN HONOUR OF OUR DEAD.
                                         FEAR NOT THAT YE HAVE DIED FOR NAUGHT
                                        WE'VE LEARNED THE LESSON THAT YE TAUGHT
                                                         IN FLANDERS FIELDS

TWO DAYS BEFORE THE ARMISTICE WAS SIGNED, MOINA MICHAEL WAS PRESENTED WITH A SMALL GIFT OF MONEY BY SOME OF THE OVERSEAS WAR SECRETARIES OF THE YMCA. SHE ANNOUNCED THAT SHE WAS GOING TO BUY SOME RED POPPIES WITH THE MONEY, WHICH IN TURN SHE SOLD TO RAISE MONEY FOR EX-SERVICE MEN.

THE FRENCH SECRETARY, MADAME GUERIN, WAS SO INSPIRED BY THIS IDEA AND DECIDED TO VISIT DIFFERENT COUNTRIES TO SUGGEST THAT ARTIFICIAL POPPIES TO BE MADE AND SOLD TO HELP EX-SERVICE MEN AND THEIR DEPENDENTS IN NEED. FROM THAT POINT THE POPPY BECAME THE EMBLEM OF REMEMBRANCE.

IN SEPTEMBER 1921. SIR HERBERT BROWN, CHAIRMAN OF THE LEGIONM APPEALS DEPARTMENT, TRAVELED TO PARIS TO MEET MADAME GUERIN TO INVESTIGATE THE PRODUCTION OF ARTIFICIAL POPPIES. ON HIS RETURN HE REPORTED THAT THE SUPPLIERS WERE GENUINE AND CAPABLE OF PRODUCING LARGE NUMBERS OF POPPIES. ITWAS THESE FRENCH POPPIES WHICE WERE IMPORTED BY THE LEGION FOR THE FIRST POPPY DAY IN NOVEMBER 1921.

ON NOVEMBER 11TH, THE PEOPLE QUICKLY ANSWERED ANY CONCERN THAT THE BRITISH LEGION MAY HAVE HAD ABOUT THE SUCCESS OF THE POPPY. POPPIES WENT ON SALE AT AN OFFICIAL PRICE OF THREE PENCE, BUT BEFORE BREAKFAST SINGLE PETALS WERE SELLING FOR £5 (SOME €250 IN TO-DAYS MOMEY).

THE FIRST POPPY DAY WAS A REMARKABLE SUCCESS RAISING £106,000. AS IS THE CASE TODAY MANY OF THE POPPIES WERE SOLD BY WOMEN. INDEED THE KEY ROLE PLAYED BY WOMEN HAD MORE THAN JUSTIFIED THE NEED FOR A BRITISH LEGION WOMEN'S SECTION.

ITWAS CLEAR THAT THE LEGION COULD NOW INVESTIN PRODUCING POPPIES. THE FOUNDER OF THE DISABLED SOCIETY, MAJOR GEORGE HOWSON M.C. WAS DETERMINED TO HELP HIS LESS FORTUNATE COMRADES. HE CONCEIVED THE IDEA OF EMPLOYING DISABLE EX-SERVICE MEN IN THE MANUFACTURE OF REMEMBRANCE POPPIES. HE RECEIVED A £2,000 GRANT FROM THE LEGION RELIEF FUND TO SET UP THE FIRST POPPY FACTORY. WITHIN MONTHS, A COLLAR FACTORY IN THE OLD KENT ROAD HAD BEEN CONVERTED AND FIVE EX-SERVICE MEN WERE EMPLOYED TO MAKE POPPIES.

THE SUCCESS OF THE POPPIE FACTORY MIRRORED THAT OF THE POPPIE APPEAL. BY 1925 THE WORKFORCE HAD GROWN FROM 5 TO 191 AND TODAY THE POPPY FACTORY, NOW SITUATED IN RICHMOND, PRODUCES ANNUALLY SOME 36 MILLION POPPIES, 98,000 WREATHS AND 737,000 REMEMBRANCE CROSSES. THE AMOUNTCOLLECTED FOR THE NATIONAL POPPY APPEAL EXCEEDS £27 MILLION ANNUALLY.

THE NEED FOR THE ROYAL BRITISH LEGION IN THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND IS STILL VERY EVIDENT. ONE IN FOUR OF THE CASES WE DEAL WITH ARE "NEW" CASES. THANKS TO THE CONTINUING GENEROSITY OF THE IRISH PUBLIC. REGIMENTAL FUNDS AND OTHER EX-SERVICE CHARITIES WE CAN LARGELY MEET THE NEEDS OF THE MEMBERS OF THE EX-SERVICE COMMUNITY. 



                                                     

          

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Bob | Reply 09.11.2017 19.10

Hi Thomas I have one left not boxed,you can check here yerman@crawfordconsultancy.ie Brian is the main poppy Organiser for the Republic of ireland

Thomas Ryan 09.11.2017 19.13

Thanks Bob....I'll be in touch later.

Thomas Ryan | Reply 09.11.2017 17.36

Has the RBL in Dublin got Poppy Wreaths and if so can they be collected?

Jacinta Blackburn | Reply 08.11.2017 10.11

Morning, I live in Buckinghamshire and would like to purchase a shamrock ppopy. But I dont know how to go about it.

Bob 08.11.2017 11.25

Hi Jacinta you can purchase the shamrock poppy online, from the Limerick Branch of the RBL http://www.rbl-limerick.webs.com/ .Hope this helps

Bob | Reply 08.11.2017 09.52

Hi Rosemary we don,t sell them online as we are not setup for it yet,but you can get them online from Limerick the branch http://www.rbl-limerick.webs.com/

Rosemary | Reply 08.11.2017 08.47

Please advise if you are selling the shamrock poppy online. I
cannot see it on your website?

Liam Anderson-Porter | Reply 07.11.2017 20.21

Anywhere to buy a poppy in the Midlands?

Regards

Bob 07.11.2017 22.22

Hi Liam id you contact Brian Crawford He is the poppy organiser for Republic of Ireland yerman@crawfordconsultancy.ie he should be able to put you right

Jim blake | Reply 07.11.2017 17.22

Where can I buy a ceramic poppy pin

See all comments

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Latest comments

Today | 14:12

Hi we don't have any at the moment but you can order them from our Limerick Branch here http://www.rbl-limerick.webs.com/. Hope this helps.

...
Today | 13:00

want to get shamrock poppy for my family member in Liverpool. Where may i make a donation to receive and send to him for christmas

...
21.11 | 23:22

Hi Tony if you contact this guy Brian Crawford at
rblpoppyireland@gmail.com he is the main poppy man for Royal British Legion let me know if you get one Bob

...
21.11 | 12:50

looking for a poppy wreath for this sunday 26th Nov can you advise.

Regards

Tony White

...
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