This simple red flower continues to be one of most visible ways people can show that they remember and thank the millions of men and women who gave up their lives for their countries in World War 1, World War 11 and all other wars.
The the association between the poppy and war dead goes back to the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s when soldiers noted how poppies seemed to flourish on the graves of soldiers who had died in battle in Flanders, a region of northern France and Belgium.
inspired the immortal poem, In Flanders Field, which he wrote during a break from working with the wounded.
The poem, one that almost every Canadian, British, Australian and New Zealand child can recite from memory, reflects what he McCrae saw and heard with his own eyes and ears while working to save dying and injured soldiers during a particularly deadly battle in Ypres, Belgium.
The Story Behind the Poem
On April 22, 1915, the Germans used deadly chlorine gas against Allied troops in a desperate attempt to create on one movement on one side or the other. Even though the effects of the gas were terrible, the Canadian soldiers continued to fight without giving up, and held the line for another 16 days.
In the trenches where he was caring for hundreds of wounded and dying soldiers, McCrae was so deeply affected by the battle and its devastating results that he wrote a letter to his mother.
The letter to his mother
"The general impression in my mind is a nightmare. We have been in the most bitter of fights. For seventeen days and seventeen nights none of us have had our clothes off, nor our boots, except occasionally.
In all that time while I was awake, gunfire and rifle fire never ceased for sixty seconds...And behind if all was the constant background of the sights of the dead, the wounded, the maimed, and a terrible anxiety lest the line should give way", (Prescot, In Flanders Fields: The Story of John McCrae, p.98
Wild poppies were already beginning to bloom between the crosses marking the many graves. Although he couldn't help his friend, or any of the others who had died, McCrae spoke for them in this poem. It was the second last poem he was to write.
How the Poppy Became an Official Symbol
The following year, Madame Guerin, a Frenchwoman, sold millions to raise funds for rehabilitation in areas of France. She also sent women to London to sell poppies and persuaded Earl Haig to adopt it for the British Legion.
In 1921 the Canadian Legion joined its British counterpart and officially adapted the poppy as its symbol of Remembrance.
First, wearing a poppy is one very visible way to show respect and admiration for the men and women who sacrificed their lives in order to help us retain the freedom and rights we take for granted.
Also when you buy and wear a poppy, you will be helping military families, former veterans in need and their families.
Where does the money go in Britain?
Last year the poppy campaign in Britain raised £40 m ( that's about about $70 million Canadian). The Royal British Legion said it spends £1.7m a week on care and support for military families, including grants, employment advice and funding, emotional support, tribunal and inquest advice, care homes and family breaks. This includes the families of veterans returning from Afghanistan.
Where does the money go in Canada?
It is difficult to get an accurate figure for the total amount raised in the Canadian poppy campaign, but a 2008 post on the Salvation Army's blog put it at about $16.5 million.
The legion distributes about 18 million poppies a year via its members, veterans, military cadets and through direct mailings. Assuming all are given out to Canadians, it amounts to average donations of less than a dollar per available poppy.
The basic purpose of Poppy Funds is to provide immediate assistance to ex-servicemen and women in need. This may include food, shelter or medical attention for them or their families. Also, education bursaries are granted to children and grandchildren of ex-service personnel.
Poppy funds can be used for low-rental housing and care facilities, community medical appliances and medical research, drop-in centres, meals-on-wheels, transportation and related services for veterans their dependents. Facilities and services are often extended to the elderly or disabled in the community as may be available.
Online Interactive Reading Comprehension Quiz
PDF Reading Comprehension: The Poppy
PDF Answers: The Poppy
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Write your answer in he comment box below
1. Do YOU think it is still important to wear a poppy? Why or why not?
2. What else should people do instead? Explain