Paper poppies

11 things you might not know about the poppy

Andy Owen collecting outside his local supermarket

1. Wearing a poppy is a show of support for the service and sacrifice of our Armed Forces, veterans and their families


It represents all those who lost their lives on active service, from the beginning of the First World War right up to present day.


It also honours the contribution of civilian services and the uniformed services which contribute to national peace and security and acknowledges innocent civilians who have lost their lives in conflict and acts of terrorism.


2. The poppy has been a symbol of Remembrance for over 100 years

The poppy became a symbol of Remembrance and hope for a peaceful future in the aftermath of the First World War.

Since 1921 our collectors have been at the heart of the Poppy Appeal. And this year they will be back in local communitites across the UK to collect donations that help RBL continue it's vital work. 

Poppy Appeal volunteer holding baby

3. There is no ‘correct’ way to wear a poppy

Wearing a poppy is a personal choice reflecting individual and personal memories.

It’s a matter of personal choice whether someone chooses to wear a poppy and how they choose to wear it.

From paper poppies to pins, bag charms to pet poppies, the best way to wear a poppy is simply with pride.

How to wear your poppy
A field of natural poppies

4. The poppy is red because that’s the natural colour of the poppy flower

During the First World War previously beautiful countryside was blasted, bombed and fought over, again and again. The landscape swiftly turned to fields of mud where little or nothing could grow.

But out of this devastation the delicate but resilient bright red Flanders poppies grew and flourished in their thousands.
Ashley Martin with member of public at Baker St

5. The red poppy directly supports the Armed Forces community

The red poppy is worn as a show of support for the Armed Forces communities across the UK, Allied Forces and the Commonwealth.

Only donations from the sale of our red poppies go directly towards helping the Armed Forces community.

Donate to the Poppy Appeal
Mirza Shahzad collecting in his local community

6. Poppies are sold in every community across the UK


Every year the rumour that poppies been banned in some communities resurfaces. This is simply not true and each year thousands of volunteers from all walks of life take to the streets, train stations and supermarkets around the country to help us raise vital funds for the Armed Forces community.


Everyone who wants to take part in remembrance can do so, either by making a donation for our traditional poppy, or by taking part in other activities.

7. A poem inspired the use of the poppy as a symbol of Remembrance

Shortly after losing a friend in Ypres in 1915, a Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies growing in battle-scarred fields to write his now famous poem 'In Flanders Fields'.

The poem inspired American War Secretary, Moina Michael, who bought poppies to sell to her friends to raise money for Servicemen in need after the First World War.

This was adopted by The (Royal) British Legion in 1921 who ordered a million poppies from Anna Guérin in France and commissioned a further 8 million to be manufactured in Britain. These were sold on 11 November that year in the first ever Poppy Appeal.

The poppy has been adopted as a symbol of Remembrance ever since.

Royal British Legion paper poppies with leaves

8. Poppies weren’t always sold with leaves

Like the natural flower, the original version of the poppy did not feature a leaf.

A leaf was first introduced in the 1960s and they slowly became an optional extra.

By 1984 demand for them had grown to 12 million a year, and in 1995 poppies with leaves included were made available for the first time.

Lawrence Philips wearing a poppy outside his home

9. Donations for poppies helps families like Lawrence's

Money raised during the Poppy Appeal helps us support the Armed Forces community in lots of different ways, including providing financial advice to veterans like Lawrence Philips who was struggling to adapt to civilian life and at the mercy of a payday loan company when Covid-19 meant he couldn’t work.
Lawrence's story
Battle Back Centre participants learning to kayak

10. And funds recovery services like the Battle Back Centre

The Poppy Appeal also helps fund services like the Battle Back Centre - the first port of call for wounded, injured and sick service men and women as they start their Individual Recovery Program.
Battle Back Centre
A new plastic-free poppy being held in one hand

11. Poppies are recyclable

For the 2023 Poppy Appeal we are introducing new plastic-free poppies alongside our remaining stocks of the current poppy.

Plastic-free poppies can be recycled in ordinary paper recycling collections. 

And poppies containing single-use plastic can be returned to Sainsbury’s stores for recycling.

More on the plastic-free poppy

There are also a variety of enamel poppy pins that you can wear instead of a paper poppy and we have a range of alternatives available from our Poppy Shop at You can then choose to make a donation to the appeal every year.

Discover more

Back to top