History of the Appeal

The first official Legion Poppy Day was held in Britain on 11 November 1921, inspired by the poem In Flanders’ Fields written by John McCrae.

Since then the Poppy Appeal has been a key annual event in the nation’s calendar.

How the Poppy Appeal began

Some of the bloodiest fighting of World War One took place in the Flanders and Picardy regions of Belgium and Northern France. The poppy was the only thing which grew in the aftermath of the complete devastation. McCrae, a doctor serving there with the Canadian Armed Forces, deeply inspired and moved by what he saw, wrote these verses:

In Flanders’ Fields
John McCrae, 1915

In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders’ fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high,
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders’ Fields.

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the First World War ended. Civilians wanted to remember the people who had given their lives for peace and freedom. An American War Secretary, Moina Michael, inspired by John McCrae’s poem, began selling poppies to friends to raise money for the ex-Service community. And so the tradition began.

The Poppy Factory

Worker in the Poppy Factory In 1922, Major George Howson, a young infantry officer, formed the Disabled Society, to help disabled ex-Service men and women from the First World War. Howson suggested to the Legion that members of the Disabled Society could make poppies and the Poppy Factory was subsequently founded in Richmond in 1922. The original poppy was designed so that workers with a disability could easily assemble it and this principle remains today. Visit their website www.poppyfactory.org for more information.

Follow this link to read a Daily Mail article on the Poppy Factory (29.10.08) – The Buttonhole Battalion

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