Poppy Day Appeal
Remembrance Sunday on 11th November will mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. Moving services will be held across the UK, including a two-minute silence at 11am to commemorate the date and time that the war was declared over - on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918.
Remembrance Day, also known as Armistice Day, is always the 11th November, with the memorial services taking place on the nearest Sunday after this date - this year, the 11th falls on a Sunday. Services at churches and cenotaphs across the nation will include the laying of poppy wreaths.
The memorial event pays tribute not only to the brave men and women who died during the Great War between 1914 and 1918, but also to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in conflict throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.
© manuta / © katacarix / Adobe Stock
The tradition of laying wreaths of poppies dates back to the First World War, with the Poppy Appeal (the annual fundraising event) being launched in 1921. Organised by the Royal British Legion, the appeal is associated with the battlegrounds of the First World War, most of which were located in Western Europe.
After the war ended, the once tranquil countryside had been devastated by the bombings and fighting. Serving as a reminder of the horrors that had occurred there, the green landscape had been replaced by a bleak, barren scene of endless fields of mud.
Over time, the once-plentiful fields of vibrant red Flanders poppies began to grow again, creating a colourful blanket of blooms against a backdrop of destruction.
In Flanders Fields
The fields had a profound effect on a Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, of Ontario, who served in the Army during the war. He was both a soldier and a surgeon, who tried to save lives during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium.
He lost his good friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, in the battle and presided over his funeral and burial. The day after the funeral, McCrae wrote one of the most famous war poems of all time, In Flanders Fields, on 3rd May 1915.
He was inspired by the fact the poppies were still striving to grow through the mud of the battlefields.
The poem began with the famous lines, "In Flanders fields, the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row," as he described the rows of crosses marking where his comrades had fallen in battle.
Tragically, after surviving the conflict, McCrae died of pneumonia at the age of 45 on 28th January 1918, while managing the Canadian General Hospital (McGill) in Boulogne. He was buried with full military honours at Wimereux Cemetery in Boulogne. A book of his poetry, including In Flanders Fields, was published posthumously.
First Poppy Day
An American professor and humanitarian, Moina Michael, read In Flanders Fields and was very moved by its words. Subsequently, she thought up the idea of using the poppy as a symbol of remembrance for those who had served in the First World War.
She had been travelling in Europe since June 1914 and was in Germany when the war broke out. She managed to travel to Rome and returned safely to the United States, first helping thousands of other stranded tourists to find a ship to take them safely back across the Atlantic.
After reading McCrae's poem in late 1918, she vowed to wear a red poppy in remembrance of all those who had served in the war. She was a tutor at the University of Georgia, where she found herself teaching disabled ex-servicemen who had returned from the frontline.
She realised there was a desperate need to provide financial help and occupational support for ex-servicemen and believed selling silk poppies would be an excellent way of raising money to help them in their post-war life. The Poppy Appeal was born, with the American Legion Auxiliary adopting the poppy as a symbol of remembrance for war veterans in 1921.
The idea was brought to England by French YWCA member Anna Guérin, who had seen the poppies while in America at a convention of the American Legion. She began to produce fabric poppies and travelled around the world, encouraging people to adopt them as a symbol of remembrance.
In 1921, she met the founder and president of the British Legion, Field Marshal Earl Douglas Haig, to discuss the sale of poppies for charity. She persuaded him to adopt the poppy as the British Legion's emblem and the first Poppy Day in the UK was held in the autumn of 1921.
Hundreds of thousands of French-made poppies were sold across the nation by the newly-formed British Legion to support ex-servicemen. The fundraiser was so successful that the legion immediately ordered nine million more silk poppies and sold them around Remembrance Day - the 11th November.
The first Poppy Appeal was a massive success, raising an astounding £106,000 for charity - the equivalent of £4.3 million in today's money. It was donated to help first world war veterans with housing and employment when they returned after the war.
In 1922, a British poppy factory was set up by Major George Howson in Aylesford, where disabled ex-servicemen were employed to make the poppies for sale. The factory is still going strong today, producing millions of poppies and ensuring the annual poppy appeal continues to be a massive success.
More than 40 million poppies are distributed today by around 40,000 volunteer sellers during the Poppy Appeal. Other items include brooches, badges and pins.
The Royal British Legion also has an online charity shop selling a selection of modern items, such as poppy-shaped brooches, crystal wreath brooches, gold or silver-tone poppy lapel pins, felt brooches, a choice of enamel badges and many more items.
How are funds spent?
The Royal British Legion uses the funds raised to provide support for members of the British Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, veterans and their families.
By donating to the Poppy Appeal, you're helping the charity in many ways, including supporting veterans and their families who are in emergency situations or in debt, and providing much-needed breaks for service families.
The money also helps fund services such as the Battle Back Centre, in Lilleshall, which is the first stop on the road to recovery for wounded, injured and sick service men and women. Every person at the centre is given an Individual Recovery Programme.
The Poppy Appeal is held every year in the weeks preceding Remembrance Sunday to help causes such as these. Many shops and businesses participate by selling poppies from the front of the store or in the reception area.
We will remember them
At the 11th hour, on the 11th November, KAS Shopfittings will be observing the two minutes silence to remember the brave men and women who fought in the First World War.
People everywhere will be reflecting on the thousands of military personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice for future generations. Their bravery must never be forgotten: wear your poppy with pride.