A field bursting with red poppies, Trowbridge, Wiltshire
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100 years of the Poppy Appeal. Armistice Day
By late 1914, poppies were flourishing on the churned-up battlefields of northern France and Flanders in Belgium. These resilient flowers, growing in the midst of chaos and destruction of World War One, inspired the Canadian surgeon John McCrae, who was serving in Ypres, to write his famous poem In Flanders Fields in 1915. An American professor, Moina Michael, was moved by the poem to campaign to make the poppy a lasting symbol of remembrance in the USA and the idea soon caught on in other countries.
The Royal British Legion, which celebrates its centenary this year, adopted the poppy as a symbol of remembrance. In 1921, artificial poppies were sold for the first time in the UK, to raise money for ex-servicemen and the families of the fallen. Those first poppies were made from silk and supplied by Anna Guérin, who had been making them in France to raise money for war orphans. They proved so popular that by 1922 the British Legion founded a factory, staffed by disabled ex-servicemen, to produce its own and by 1926, another had opened in Edinburgh. In 2019, 40,000 volunteers distributed 40 million poppies in the run-up to Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday.