Poppy Day, or Remembrance Sunday 10 November 2013.

November 7, 2013 by The Co-operative Food poppies

Remembrance Sunday is the most poignant of the year.

It’s when the nation, in fact when most of the world, takes pause, and considers those who have died in war.

In many countries we wear the poppy as a symbol of our respect. The poppy was first adopted in the US following a poem that became famous written by a Canadian doctor called lieutenant colonel John McCrae. It starts:

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.

The poppy is often found thriving in disturbed earth, whether it’s war, or something less sinister that has lead to the land being turned over. And now of course we all see it as a symbol of remembrance. In Britain the poppy is sold each year to raise funds for our leading services charity, The Royal British Legion, with the appeal launched this year by The Saturdays, and in London by Boris Johnson. Traditionally the poppy is worn on the left lapel, and many aim to wear it with the leaf at 11 o’clock, though the Legion is quick to point out that the most important thing is that it is worn with pride.

You’ll hear older people refer to 11th November as Armistice Day. This was how the original day was known, when the peace accord between Germany and the Western Allies that marked the end of the First World War was signed. It’s still known as Armistice Day in France and Belgium where 11th November is a national holiday.

Since the Second World War the day has become known as Remembrance Day in this country, now commemorating the dead in all wars since WW1. In the States it’s called Veterans Day and extends to honour their soldiers dead and alive.

On the Sunday nearest the 11th there are parades to the local war memorial and the laying of wreaths, most famously at the Cenotaph in Whitehall where The Queen and other royals lay wreaths, alongside heads of state. Church bells toll at 11.00, but they are generally muffled which creates an eerie sound, more appropriate to the sombre occasion.

It was only in 2009 that Harry Patch, the last British veteran of the First World War died at the amazing age of 111. With Harry went the direct memory of the horrors of that dreadful loss of life when an estimated 20 million people were killed as a result of the hostilities. 20 million people, that’s the equivalent of a third of the population of Britain being wiped out in just four years. Fortunately most of us can’t even contemplate such devastation.

Wear your poppy with pride from now through until the 11th November.

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