Video: Why Poppies?

Dr Cor Vink, Curator Natural History, talks about how poppies came to be a symbol of remembrance.

Why poppies?

Poppies are a symbol of remembrance of Commonwealth military personnel.

The link between poppies and World War One was first made when a poem by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian doctor, was published in Punch on 8 December 1915. It included the opening line, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow”. This referred to the common poppy, Papaver rhoeas, which is found throughout Europe where it grows well in disturbed ground such as farmland and the battlefields of the Western Front.

The American Legion was the first to adopt the poppy as its national symbol of remembrance in September 1920.

A year later, the RSA ordered more than 350,000 silk poppies from France for the first Poppy Day appeal, which was to occur close to Armistice Day (11 November) 1921. Unfortunately, the poppies arrived in New Zealand too late, so they were sold on Anzac Day in 1922 and were a great success.

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Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

Courtesy of Joe Higham, www.jhreportage.co.uk

Ceramic poppy from Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, 2014

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In Commemoration

In 2014, between July and November, 888,246 hand-made, ceramic red poppies were placed in the moat of the Tower of London as an art installation called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.

Each ceramic poppy represented a British or Colonial serviceman killed in World War One.

The installation was conceived by Paul Cummins and poppies were added progressively by volunteers. The ceramic poppies were sold to raise funds for six service charities.