Remembrance poppy

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1921 British Remembrance Poppy. Cotton and silk poppies were made by Madame Guerin's widows & orphans in the devastated areas of France. Madame Guerin was "The Poppy Lady from France" and the "Originator of the Poppy Day". 1921 British Remembrance Poppy.jpg
1921 British Remembrance Poppy. Cotton and silk poppies were made by Madame Guérin's widows & orphans in the devastated areas of France. Madame Guérin was "The Poppy Lady from France" and the "Originator of the Poppy Day".

Royal British Legion remembrance poppy Royal British Legion's Paper Poppy - white background.jpg
Royal British Legion remembrance poppy

The remembrance poppy is an artificial flower that has been used since 1921 to commemorate military personnel who have died in war, and represents a common or field poppy, Papaver rhoeas . The remembrance poppy was inspired by the World War I poem "In Flanders Fields", and promoted by Moina Michael and the “Originator of the Poppy Day” Madame Guérin. [1]  Prior to this, Madame Guérin had been raising funds for French and American war charities throughout the World War One years, for widows; orphans; veterans; Red Cross; Food for France; US Liberty Bonds; etc.  

Artificial flower imitations of natural flowering plants used for commercial or residential decoration

Artificial flowers are imitations of natural flowering plants used for commercial or residential decoration. They are sometimes made for scientific purposes.

<i>Papaver rhoeas</i> species of plant

Papaver rhoeas is an annual herbaceous species of flowering plant in the poppy family, Papaveraceae. This poppy is notable as an agricultural weed and after World War I as a symbol of dead soldiers.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Contents

After the Armistice, the French government formed the charity ‘La Ligue des enfants de France et d’Amérique’, with the poppy was its emblem.  Madame Guérin created the American branch of it, called ‘American and French Children’s League.  Many organisations adopted the poppy as their memorial flower, after the World War One came to an end.  In 1919, Madame Guérin began holding Poppy Days, under the auspices of her charity.  

Armistice of 11 November 1918 armistice during First World War between Allies and Germany

The Armistice of 11 November 1918 was the armistice signed at Le Francport near Compiègne that ended fighting on land, sea and air in World War I between the Allies and their opponent, Germany. Previous armistices had been agreed with Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Also known as the Armistice of Compiègne from the place where it was signed at 5:45 a.m. by the French Marshal Foch, it came into force at 11:00 a.m. Paris time on 11 November 1918 and marked a victory for the Allies and a defeat for Germany, although not formally a surrender.

Today, they are mostly used in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, United States of America and New Zealand, to commemorate their servicemen and women killed in all conflicts. There, small artificial poppies are often worn on clothing leading up to Remembrance Day/Armistice Day, [2] and poppy wreaths are often laid at war memorials. In Australia and New Zealand, they are also worn on Anzac Day.

Remembrance Day memorial day on 11 November

Remembrance Day is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth member states since the end of the First World War to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. Following a tradition inaugurated by King George V in 1919, the day is also marked by war remembrances in many non-Commonwealth countries. Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November in most countries to recall the end of hostilities of First World War on that date in 1918. Hostilities formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month", in accordance with the armistice signed by representatives of Germany and the Entente between 5:12 and 5:20 that morning. The First World War officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919.

Armistice Day commemoration on November 11 of the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany in 1918

Armistice Day is commemorated every year on 11 November to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France at 5:45 am, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning—the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918. But, according to Thomas R. Gowenlock, an intelligence officer with the US First Division, shelling from both sides continued for the rest of the day, only ending at nightfall. The armistice initially expired after a period of 36 days and had to be extended several times. A formal peace agreement was only reached when the Treaty of Versailles was signed the following year.

Wreath assortment of flowers, leaves, fruits, twigs, or various materials that is constructed to form a ring

A wreath is an assortment of flowers, leaves, fruits, twigs, or various materials that is constructed to form a ring.

The Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal has caused some controversy, with some—including British Army veterans—arguing that it has become excessive, is being used to marshal support behind British military campaigns, and that public figures are pressured to wear poppies.

Origins

The flower of the common or field poppy Papaver rhoeas, on which the remembrance poppy is based Field poppy - Papaver rhoeas (12190335083).jpg
The flower of the common or field poppy Papaver rhoeas , on which the remembrance poppy is based
Moina Michael on a 1948 U.S. commemorative stamp 00MoinaMichael.jpg
Moina Michael on a 1948 U.S. commemorative stamp

The remembrance poppy was inspired by the World War I poem "In Flanders Fields". Its opening lines refer to the many poppies that were the first flowers to grow in the churned-up earth of soldiers' graves in Flanders, a region of Belgium. [3] It is written from the point of view of the dead soldiers and, in the last verse, they call on the living to continue the conflict. [4] The poem was written by Canadian physician, John McCrae, on May 3 1915 after witnessing the death of his friend, a fellow soldier, the day before. The poem was first published on December 8 1915 in the London-based magazine Punch .

In Flanders Fields war poem

"In Flanders Fields" is a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially dissatisfied with his work, discarded it. "In Flanders Fields" was first published on December 8 of that year in the London magazine Punch.

Flanders Community and region of Belgium

Flanders is the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium and one of the communities, regions and language areas of Belgium. However, there are several overlapping definitions, including ones related to culture, language, politics and history, and sometimes involving neighbouring countries. The demonym associated with Flanders is Fleming, while the corresponding adjective is Flemish. The official capital of Flanders is Brussels, although the Brussels Capital Region has an independent regional government, and the government of Flanders only oversees the community aspects of Flanders life in Brussels such as (Flemish) culture and education.

Belgium Federal constitutional monarchy in Western Europe

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,688 km2 (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.4 million. The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège.

In 1918, Moina Michael, who had taken leave from her professorship at the University of Georgia to be a volunteer worker for the American YMCA Overseas War Secretaries organization, was inspired by the poem and published a poem of her own called "We Shall Keep the Faith". [5] In tribute to McCrae's poem, she vowed to always wear a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance for those who fought and helped in the war. [3] At a November 1918 YMCA Overseas War Secretaries' conference, she appeared with a silk poppy pinned to her coat and distributed 25 more to those attending. She then campaigned to have the poppy adopted as a national symbol of remembrance.

Moina Michael American academic

Moina Belle Michael was an American professor and humanitarian who conceived the idea of using poppies as a symbol of remembrance for those who served in World War I.

University of Georgia Public university located in Athens, Georgia, United States

The University of Georgia, colloquially known as UGA or Georgia, is a public flagship research university in Athens, Georgia. Founded in 1785, it is one of the oldest public universities in the United States.

We Shall Keep the Faith poem

"We Shall Keep the Faith" is a poem penned by Moina Michael in November 1918. She received inspiration for this poem from "In Flanders Fields". The "poppy red" refers to Papaver rhoeas.

At its conference in 1920, the National American Legion adopted it as their official symbol of remembrance. [3] Frenchwoman Madame Anna E. Guérin [6] was invited to address American Legion delegates at their 1920 Cleveland Convention, about her ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’ idea.  After which, they too adopted the poppy as their memorial flower and committed to support Madame Guérin in her future US Poppy Days.  It was there that the American Legion christened her “The Poppy Lady from France”. In the USA, she organised the very firstnationwide Poppy Day, held during the week before Memorial Day in May 1921, using silk poppies made by the widows and children of the devastated regions of France. [7]

When the American Legion reneged on the poppy, in favour of the daisy, the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ veterans supported Madame Guérin instead. Using French-made poppies, purchased through Madame Guérin, it was the V.F.W. that was responsible for organising the very first veterans’ Poppy Day Drive in the U.S.A., for the 1922 Memorial Day. [8] In 1924, the Veterans of Foreign Wars patented the Buddy Poppy. [9]

Madame Guérin’s ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’ idea was also adopted by military veterans' groups in parts of the British Empire. After the 1921 Memorial Day in the U.S.A., Madame Guérin travelled to Canada.  After she addressed the Great War Veteran Association veterans on 4 July, they adopted the poppy emblem and her ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’ idea too.  They were the first veterans of the British Empire (now British Commonwealth) to do so. [10]  

Madame Guérin sent her representative Colonel Moffat (ex-American Red Cross) to Australia and New Zealand (and probably South Africa) afterwards. Then, Madame Guérin travelled to Great Britain, where she informed Field Marshal Douglas Haig and the Royal British Legion about her “idea”.  Because it was a poor organisation, Madame Guérin paid for the British remembrance poppies herself and the British Legion reimbursed her, after the first British Remembrance Day Poppy Day on 11 November 1921. [11]

James Fox notes that all of the countries who adopted the remembrance poppy were the "victors" of World War I. [4]

Usage

Today, remembrance poppies are mostly used in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand—countries which are part of the British Commonwealth—to commemorate their servicemen and women killed in all conflicts. They are used to a lesser extent in the United States.

Australia

In Australia, remembrance poppies have been used since 1921 to commemorate Australian soldiers who died in war. On Remembrance Day (11 November) and Anzac Day (25 April) they are laid at war memorials, and are sold by the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) in return for donations. [12]

Canada

Canadian remembrance poppies Poppies by Benoit Aubry of Ottawa.JPG
Canadian remembrance poppies

In Canada, the poppy is the official symbol of remembrance worn during the two weeks before 11 November, having been adopted in 1921. The Royal Canadian Legion, which has trademarked the image, [13] suggests that poppies be worn on the left lapel, or as near the heart as possible. [14]

Until 1996, poppies were made by disabled veterans in Canada, but they have since been made by a private contractor. [15] The Canadian poppies consist of two pieces of moulded plastic covered with flocking with a pin to fasten them to clothing. At first the poppies were made with a black centre. From 1980 to 2002, the centres were changed to green. Current designs are black only; this change caused confusion and controversy to those unfamiliar with the original design. [16] In 2007, sticker versions of the poppy were made for children, the elderly, and healthcare and food industry workers. [17] Canada also issues a cast metal "Canada Remembers" pin featuring a gold maple leaf and two poppies, one representing the fallen and the other representing those who remained on the home front. [18]

Following the installation of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa in 2000, where the national Remembrance service is held, a new tradition formed spontaneously as attendees laid their poppies on the tomb at the end of the service. This tradition, while not part of the official program, has become widely practised elsewhere in the country, with others leaving cut flowers, photographs, or letters to the dead.

Since joining Canada in 1949, the remembrance poppy and Armistice Day commemorations have largely displaced Newfoundland's own commemorative floral emblem, the forget-me-not, and its own Memorial Day held on 1 July. Although in recent years the forget-me-not has had somewhat of a resurgence in Newfoundland's military commemorations, [19] [20] the remembrance poppy is more common.

New Zealand

New Zealand remembrance poppy NZRSA remembrance poppy.jpg
New Zealand remembrance poppy

In New Zealand, remembrance poppies are most often worn on Anzac Day (25 April) to commemorate New Zealand soldiers who died in war. They are also worn on Remembrance Day, and are sold by the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association (RSA) in return for donations. The RSA planned to hold its first Poppy Day appeal around the time of Armistice Day 1921, as other countries were doing. The ship carrying the poppies from France arrived in New Zealand too late, and so the association waited until Anzac Day 1922. This first Poppy Day appeal was a success. Most of the money raised went to needy soldiers and their families, while the rest went to the French Children's League to help relieve suffering in war-ravaged areas of northern France.

The popularity of Poppy Day grew and there were record collections during the Second World War. By 1945, 750,000 poppies were being distributed nationwide, which equated to half the population. [21]

United Kingdom

A volunteer makes red remembrance poppies at the Royal British Legion Poppy Factory in London, where over 30 million poppies are made by a small team each year A volunteer constructs poppies at the Royal British Legion Poppy Factory, Richmond MOD 45148164.jpg
A volunteer makes red remembrance poppies at the Royal British Legion Poppy Factory in London, where over 30 million poppies are made by a small team each year
A poppy on a bus in Southampton, England (November 2008) Bluestar 574.JPG
A poppy on a bus in Southampton, England (November 2008)
Big plastic poppy at Manchester Town Hall (November 2015) Remembrance Poppy an der Manchester Town Hall.JPG
Big plastic poppy at Manchester Town Hall (November 2015)

In the United Kingdom, remembrance poppies are sold by The Royal British Legion (RBL). This is a charity providing financial, social, political and emotional support to those who have served or who are currently serving in the British Armed Forces, and their dependants. They are sold on the streets by volunteers in the weeks before Remembrance Day. The remembrance poppy is the trademark of The Royal British Legion. [22] [23] [24] The RBL state, "The red poppy is our registered mark and its only lawful use is to raise funds for the Poppy Appeal"; [25] its yearly fundraising drive in the weeks before Remembrance Day. The RBL says these poppies are "worn to commemorate the sacrifices of our Armed Forces and to show support to those still serving today". [26] Other poppy merchandise is sold throughout the year as part of the ongoing fundraising. [27]

In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the poppies typically have two red paper petals mounted on a green plastic stem with a single green paper leaf and a prominent black plastic central boss. The stem has an additional branch used to anchor the poppy via a pin in the lapel or buttonhole. In Scotland, the poppies are curled and have four petals with no leaf. The yearly selling of poppies is a major source of income for the RBL in the UK. The poppy has no fixed price; it is sold for a donation or the price may be suggested by the seller. The black plastic centre of the poppy was marked "Haig Fund" until 1994 but is now marked "Poppy Appeal". [28] A team of about 50 people—most of them disabled former British military personnel—work all year round to make millions of poppies at the Poppy Factory in Richmond. [29] Scottish poppies are made in the Lady Haig's Poppy Factory in Edinburgh.

For many years after World War I, poppies were worn only on Remembrance Day itself. [30] Today the RBL's "Poppy Appeal" has a higher profile than any other charity appeal in the UK. [30] The poppies are widespread from late October until mid-November every year and are worn by the general public, politicians, the Royal Family and other public figures. It has become common to see large poppies on buses, tube trains and aeroplanes as well as on lampposts, billboards, public buildings and landmarks. Many newspapers and magazines show a poppy on their cover page, and some social network users add poppies to their avatars. [31] Each year, an official Poppy Appeal single has been released. [32] There are thousands of poppy sellers on the streets and numerous fundraising events; such as concerts, fairs, marathons and competitions. There are also many other events to raise awareness. For example, in 2011, a Second World War plane dropped 6,000 poppies over the town of Yeovil in Somerset. [33] In 2014, the dry moat of the Tower of London was covered with 888,246 ceramic poppies – one for each soldier of the British Empire killed in World War I.

There has been growing controversy over the Poppy Appeal. Some—including British Army veterans—have argued that the Poppy Appeal has become excessive and garish, that it is being used to marshal support behind British military campaigns, and that poppy wearing has become compulsory for public figures. [34] [35] Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow described it as "poppy fascism". [36] Columnist Dan O'Neill wrote that "presenters and politicians seem to compete in a race to be first – poppies start sprouting in mid-October while the absence of a poppy is interpreted as absence of concern for the war dead, almost as an unpatriotic act of treachery". [37] Likewise, Jonathan Bartley of the religious think-tank Ekklesia said "public figures in Britain are urged, indeed in many cases, required, to wear ... the red poppy, almost as an article of faith. There is a political correctness about the red poppy". [38] Journalist Robert Fisk complained that the poppy has become a seasonal "fashion accessory" and that people were "ostentatiously wearing a poppy for social or work-related reasons, to look patriotic when it suited them". [39] Some far-right groups have used the poppy as a symbol of militant British nationalism, while some Muslims have begun to reject it as a symbol of Western imperialism. [4]

In 1997 and again in 2000 the Royal British Legion registered the Poppy under Intellectual Property Rights (1997 Case EU000557058) [40] and Trade Mark (2000 Trade Mark 2239583). [41]

Northern Ireland

The Royal British Legion also holds a yearly poppy appeal in Northern Ireland and in 2009 raised more than £1m. [42] The wearing of poppies in Northern Ireland is controversial. [4] It is seen by many as a political symbol [4] [43] and a symbol of Britishness, [4] [44] [45] representing support for the British Army. [43] The poppy has long been the preserve of the unionist/loyalist community. [4] [44] Loyalist paramilitaries (such as the UVF and UDA) have also used poppies to commemorate their own members who were killed in The Troubles. [46]

Most Irish nationalists/republicans, and Irish Catholics, choose not to wear poppies; [43] they regard the Poppy Appeal as supporting soldiers who killed Irish civilians (for example on Bloody Sunday) and who colluded with illegal loyalist paramilitaries (for example the Glenanne gang) during The Troubles. [4] [47] [48] [49] [50] [51] Irish nationalist groups, and victims' groups, have urged the BBC to end its policy that all presenters must wear poppies. They argue that it breaches impartiality and point out that political symbols are banned in workplaces in Northern Ireland. They also say that the BBC, as a publicly funded body, should broadly reflect the whole community. [49] [52] Likewise, the director of Relatives for Justice has condemned the wearing of poppies by police officers in Catholic neighbourhoods, calling it "repugnant and offensive to the vast majority of people within our community, given the role of the British Army". [48] In the Irish Independent , it was claimed that "substantial amounts" of money raised from selling poppies are used "to build monuments to insane or inane generals or build old boys' clubs for the war elite". [50] On Remembrance Day 2010 the SDLP’s Margaret Ritchie was the first leader of a nationalist party to wear one. [53]

Republic of Ireland

During World War I, all of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom and about 200,000 Irishmen fought in the British Army (see Ireland and World War I). Although the British Army is banned from actively recruiting in the Republic of Ireland, [54] [55] a small number of its citizens still enlist. [56] [57] [58] The RBL thus has a branch in the Republic and holds a yearly Poppy Appeal there. The RBL also holds a wreath-laying ceremony at St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, which the President of Ireland has attended. [59]

The Republic has its own National Day of Commemoration in July for all Irish people who died in war. As in other non-Commonwealth countries, poppies are not often worn and are not part of the main commemorations. [60] [61] This is partly due to the British Army's role in fighting against Irish independence, its activities during the War of Independence (for example the Burning of Cork) [62] and the British Army's role in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

In the years following the War of Independence, the poppy was particularly controversial, with nationalists seeing it as a provocative symbol of British imperialism. In Dublin, British Legion marchers often had poppies snatched from their lapels, which led to street fights. In response, some poppy-wearers hid razor blades in their poppies. [63] [64] "As the 1930s progressed, 'Poppy Day' lost much of its violent edge in Dublin, but the wearing of the symbol also became less commonplace in subsequent decades". [65]

In 2017, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar wore a "shamrock poppy" in the Dáil, the first leader of Fine Gael to do so. [66]

Elsewhere

In the United States, the Veterans of Foreign Wars conducted the first nationwide distribution of remembrance poppies before Memorial Day in 1922. [67] Today, the American Legion Auxiliary distributes crepe-paper poppies in exchange for donations around Memorial Day and Veterans Day. [68] [69] [70] [71]

In Hong Kong—which was formerly part of the British Empire—the poppy is worn by some participants on Remembrance Sunday each year. [72] [73] It is not generally worn by the public, although The Royal British Legion's Hong Kong and China Branch sells poppies to the public in a few places in Hong Kong only. [74]

Never Again symbol from Ukraine Nikoli Znovu 02.svg
Never Again symbol from Ukraine

Since 2014, the Ukrainians have worn the poppy as a symbol of the Victory over Nazism and commemoration of the victims of World War II. It has largely replaced the Ribbon of Saint George, which became associated with pro-Russian separatists and Russian military aggression. A poppy logo was designed by Serhiy Mishakin and contains the text: "1939-1945 Never Again". [75]

In parts of Pakistan, the 'Great War Company' hold a private ceremony each 11 November where red poppies are worn, by descendants of World War I veterans from the old British Indian Army. [76]

In Albania, government representatives, including Prime Minister Edi Rama, wore the Remembrance Poppy during the commemoration ceremonies for the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Albania. [77]

Other designs and purposes

White poppies

A white remembrance poppy left on Anzac Day in New Zealand, 2009 Anzac poppies.JPG
A white remembrance poppy left on Anzac Day in New Zealand, 2009

Some people choose to wear white poppies as an alternative to the red poppy. The white poppy and white poppy wreaths were introduced by Britain's Co-operative Women's Guild in 1933. [78] Today, white poppies are sold by Peace Pledge Union or may be home-made. [79] The white poppy may be worn alone or alongside the red poppy. According to the Peace Pledge Union, it symbolises remembrance of all casualties of war including civilian casualties, and non-British casualties, to stand for peace, and not to glamorize war. [80] While it was never meant to be disrespectful, some people were very offended with the use of the white poppy and some women in the 1930s lost their jobs for wearing white poppies. [81]

Purple poppies

To commemorate animal victims of war, Animal Aid in Britain has issued a purple remembrance poppy, which can be worn alongside the traditional red one, as a reminder that both humans and animals have been – and continue to be – victims of war. [82] [83] Recently, the purple poppy was replaced by a purple paw symbol that can be worn all year round. This was because people saw the poppy as implying animals had given their lives as heroes in the service of human beings. Animal Aid regards animals of having their lives taken by the abuse of humans in war, not given by the animals as could be the case with people who have the capacity to decide for themselves. [84]

Black poppies

On Remembrance Sunday 1999 a Merseyside group protesting against sanctions and war on Iraq laid a wreath of black poppies on the cenotaph in Liverpool [85] . In 2014 the black poppy was embraced as an anti war symbol by the Stop the War Coalition which reported 'anti militarists' in Glasgow distributing 16,000 black poppies in memory of World War One conscientious objectors [86]

Khadi poppies

Introduced in the 2018 Centenary year by Jitesh Gadhia and The Royal British Legion, the Khadi poppy is intended to represent specific gratitude for the contribution of 1.5 million people from undivided India, as well as Commonwealth nations more generally, to the First World War. These poppies are identical to the Legion red poppy except the petals are made of khadi, a spun cotton cloth popularised by Mahatma Gandhi on his spinning wheel. [87] Jitesh Gadhia has stated that 'the khadi poppy is a hugely symbolic and highly appropriate gesture to recognise the outsized contribution of Indian soldiers during WWI.' On the poppy's role to reach out to ethnic minority communities whose ancestors participated in the war effort, he said that 'our identity is our destiny – and so the current generation of Asians should know that their fathers and grandfathers didn’t just come to Britain as immigrants. Our ancestors fought for this country and for freedom and democracy – even though they lived in a colony at the time...British Asians should be proud of the role that their forbears played in shaping the destiny of the world.'

It has been worn by British Prime Minister Theresa May, and by cricketers Joe Root and Virat Kohli before a test match between England and India in September 2018. [88] [89]

Protests and controversy

In 1993, The Royal British Legion complained that Cannon Fodder , a video game with an anti-war message, had planned to use a poppy on its cover. The Legion, along with some politicians, called it "offensive to millions" and "monstrous". The publisher was forced to change the cover before the game was released.

In 2010 a group of British Army veterans issued an open letter complaining that the Poppy Appeal had become excessive and garish, that it was being used to marshal support behind British military campaigns, and that people were being pressured into wearing poppies. [34] In 2014, the group protested by holding an alternative remembrance service: they walked to The Cenotaph under the banner "Never Again" with a wreath of white poppies to acknowledge civilians killed in war. Their tops bore the message "War is Organised Murder", a quote from Harry Patch, the last survivor of World War I. [90] [91]

A 2010 Remembrance Day ceremony in London was disrupted by members of the radical Islamist Muslims Against Crusades group, who were protesting against British Army actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. They burnt large poppies and chanted "British soldiers burn in hell" during the two-minute silence. Two of the men were arrested and charged for threatening behaviour. One was convicted and fined £50. [92] The same group planned to hold another protest in 2011, [93] but was banned by the Home Secretary the day before the planned protest. [94] In 2014, a campaign was begun to encourage Muslim women to wear poppy hijabs. Some criticised it as a "shrouded loyalty test" which implied that Muslims needed to prove their loyalty to Britain. [95] [96] [97]

In November 2011 people were arrested in Northern Ireland after a picture of two youths burning a poppy was posted on Facebook. The picture was reported to police by a member of the RBL. [98] The following year, a young Canterbury man was arrested for allegedly posting a picture of a burning poppy on Facebook, on suspicion of an offence under the Malicious Communications Act. [99]

British Prime Minister David Cameron rejected a request from Chinese officials to remove his poppy during his visit to Beijing on Remembrance Day 2010. The poppy was deemed offensive because it was mistakenly assumed to be connected with the Anglo-Chinese Opium Wars of the 19th century, after which the Qing Dynasty was forced to tolerate the British opium trade in China and to cede Hong Kong to the UK. [100]

In 2012 there was controversy when The Northern Whig public house in Belfast refused entry to a man wearing a remembrance poppy. [101] Although the owners apologised, the customer took the matter to court, supported by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI). [102] The case was significant for the decision supporting the view of the ECNI that "The poppy, although not directly linked to a specific religious belief or political opinion, would historically have been associated to a greater extent with the Protestant or unionist community in Northern Ireland". [103]

In the media

In the British media, public figures have been attacked for not wearing poppies. British journalist and newsreader Charlene White has faced racist and sexist abuse for not wearing a poppy on-screen. She explained "I prefer to be neutral and impartial on screen so that one of those charities doesn't feel less favoured than another". [104] Newsreader Jon Snow does not wear a poppy on-screen for similar reasons. He too was criticised and he condemned what he saw as "poppy fascism". [105] Well-known war-time journalist Robert Fisk published in November 2011 a personal account about the shifting nature of wearing a poppy, titled "Do those who flaunt the poppy on their lapels know that they mock the war dead?". [106] While all newsreaders in the UK are expected to wear the remembrance poppy, those on the BBC's international news service are told not to. The BBC say this is because the symbol is not widely recognised overseas. The Royal British Legion condemned this, insisting that the poppy is the "international symbol of remembrance". [107]

In sport

Football clubs commonly wear jerseys with a poppy emblazoned on, as Celtic controversially did in 2010. Celtic team - November 2010.jpg
Football clubs commonly wear jerseys with a poppy emblazoned on, as Celtic controversially did in 2010.

In the run-up to Remembrance Day, it has become common for UK football teams to play with artificial poppies sewn to their shirts, at the request of the Royal British Legion. This has caused some controversy.

At a Celtic v Aberdeen match in November 2010, a group of Celtic supporters, called the Green Brigade, unfurled a large banner in protest at the team wearing poppies. In a statement, it said: "Our group and many within the Celtic support do not recognise the British Armed Forces as heroes, nor their role in many conflicts as one worthy of our remembrance". It gave Operation Banner (Northern Ireland), the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War as examples. [108]

Northern Irish-born footballer James McClean, who has played for several English teams, has received death threats and abuse since 2012 for refusing to wear a poppy on his shirt during matches. [109] McClean said he does not wear one because the Poppy Appeal supports British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland, and believes it would disrespect those killed in his hometown on Bloody Sunday. [110]

In November 2011, it was proposed that the England football team should wear poppies on their shirts in a match against Spain. FIFA turned down the proposal; their decision was attacked by Prince William [111] FIFA subsequently allowed the English, Scottish and Welsh teams to wear poppies on black armbands. [112]

On 11 November 2017, the third day of the Women's Test match held at North Sydney Oval as part of the Women's Ashes 2017–18, both the Australian and the English team players wore poppies to mark 99 years since the end of World War I. [113]

During the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, the England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland football teams were fined for displaying the poppy during matches. FIFA rules forbid the display of "political or religious symbols". [114] [115] [116] The decision was strongly criticised by Prime Minister Theresa May, and the Welsh and English football associations appealed against the fine, with the English Football Association threatening to bring the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. [116] [117] [118]

In November 2018, Manchester United's Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matić refused to wear a poppy on his shirt for a match against Bournemouth. [119] After the match, Matić was castigated and got threats by a number of people via social networks for not respecting servicemen who have died in war. [120] Matić stated that he will not wear a poppy because his village of Vrelo was hit by the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. [121]

See also

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