Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Why the Poppy?
Today, fields of brilliant poppies still grow in France.
A writer first made the connection between the poppy and battlefield deaths during the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century, remarking that fields that were barren before battle exploded with the blood-red flowers after the fighting ended.
During the tremendous bombardments of the First World War the chalk soils became rich in lime from rubble, allowing 'popaver rhoeas' to thrive. When the war ended the lime was quickly absorbed, and the poppy began to disappear again.
After John McCrae's poem In Flanders Fields was published in 1915 the poppy became a popular symbol for soldiers who died in battle.
Three years later an American, Moina Michael, was working in a New York City YMCA canteen when she started wearing a poppy in memory of the millions who died on the battlefield.
During a 1920 visit to the United States a French woman, Madame Guerin, learned of the custom. On her return to France she decided to use handmade poppies to raise money for the destitute children in war-torn areas of the country. In November, 1921, the first poppies were distributed in Canada.
Thanks to the millions of Canadians who wear flowers each November, the little red plant has never died. And neither have Canadian's memories for 116,031 of their countrymen who died in battle.
And here's Singapore's boring version: http://www.mindef.gov.sg/imindef/about_us/history/the_early_years/v08n11_history.html