Great Britain

Poppy Day and Other Observances

 

Remembrance Day  is also known as Poppy Day throughout Great Britian, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand (ANZAC). 

The day is closely associated with a poem, "In Flanders Field" written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps.  In May, 1915 when after watching the death of a close friend in Belgium he wrote the following poem:

 

In Flanders Field

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.

 

McCrae died in 1918 and so did not see the end of the war. His poem was printed on December 8th, 1915 in an issue of Punch and soon became the unofficial anthem of the soldiers in the trenches where it was memorised and passed on by word of mouth.

In 1918, an American woman Moira Michael, wrote a poem in response to "In Flanders Field," titled "We shall keep the faith." In her poem she promised to wear a poppy to honour the dead, this was where the tradition to wear a poppy on Remembrance Day was first begun, a tradition that is still in existence today.

 

We Shall Keep the Faith

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

 

In the United States poppies are not necessarily associated with Veterans Day, but rather are traditionally sold on Memorial Day.

 

 

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