Friday, 8 November 2019

The Remembrance Poppy

The poppy is a widely recognized symbol of remembrance for fallen soldiers that many choose to wear in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day.

We were intrigued to find records in our archive that document how the poppy became a universally accepted memorial flower and how it started to bloom on the lapels of Canadians.

The use of the flower as a memorial has roots in John McCrae's 1915 poem In Flanders Fields. An American teacher by the name of Moina Michael read McCrae's poem and pledged to always wear a poppy as a sign of remembrance. In 1919, Madame Anna A. Guerin (nee Boulle) happened to meet Michael while touring the States, and was inspired to circulate paper poppies to raise funds for individuals living in war-torn France.

Guerin pitched the idea of an Inter-Allied Poppy Day to several nations after her American Poppy Drives proved successful. The Great War Veterans' Association of Canada (precursor to the Royal Canadian Legion) adopted the campaign in 1921.

Here at ARCAT we have two early letters from the office of the G.W.V.A. that request participation in the Poppy Day Campaign ahead of Armistice Day on November 11.

Letter describing the National Poppy Day Campaign, circa 1921. 

"It has been thought appropriate that Canada should also adopt this beautiful custom. to this end, the Great war Veterans' Association of Canada has arranged with the French Children's League to distribute just prior to Armistice Day, replicas of the Flanders poppy, which the orphan children of France are making."

 FW HC05.11
ARCAT First World War Collection

Letter describing the National Poppy Day Campaign, circa 1921.

"On Armistice Day the soldiers cemeteries in France will be thronged by a reverend crowd eager to show that those who fought and won and sleep in Flanders Fields are not forgotten.
[…]
consider it a sacred obligation to wear the bright red poppy on Armistice Day
[…]
and keep alive the memory of those who brought  back honour to their country, lory to their flag, and peace to the world."

 FW HC05.11
ARCAT First World War Collection

The Legion continues the annual Poppy Campaign to this day as a way to support veterans and their families. Find more information about the Poppy and Remembrance Day on the Legion's website.


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