LRX2 715X195 Remembrance

The story of the poppy

During the First World War (1914–1918) much of the fighting took place in Western Europe. Previously beautiful countryside was blasted, bombed and fought over, again and again. The landscape swiftly turned to fields of mud, bleak and barren scenes where little or nothing could grow.

Bright red Flanders poppies (Papaver rhoeas) however, were delicate but resilient flowers and grew in their thousands, flourishing even in the middle of chaos and destruction. In the spring of 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lt Col John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies to write a now famous poem called "In Flanders Fields".

Poppies for Remembrance

The first poppies came from FranceMcCrae’s poem in turn inspired an American academic, Moina Michael to make handmade red silk poppies which were then brought to England by a French lady, Anna Guerin. The (Royal) British Legion, formed in 1921, ordered 9 million of the poppies which they sold on 11 November that year. The poppies sold out almost immediately and that first ever 'Poppy Appeal' raised over £106,000, a huge amount of money at the time.

The following year, Major George Howson, who had received the Military Cross for his role in the First World War, set up a factory off the Old Kent Road in London where five disabled ex-Servicemen began making poppies. 3 years later the Poppy Factory moved to its current site in Richmond, Surrey and today produces millions of poppies each year.

Such was the demand for poppies in England in 1922 that few were reaching Scotland. Earl Haig's wife established the 'Lady Haig Poppy Factory' in Edinburgh to produce poppies exclusively for Scotland. Over 5 million Scottish poppies (which have four petals and no leaf unlike poppies in the rest of the UK) are still made by hand by disabled ex-Servicemen at Lady Haig's Poppy Factory each year.

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