The Poppy Appeal
Each year the nation shows its unequivocal support for the Legion’s work through its support of the Poppy Appeal. Millions of poppies, wreaths and petals are produced for this time of reflection.
World War 1 caused widespread devastation to northern France and Belgium; however, the poppy flowered, bringing colour and hope. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a doctor in the Canadian Armed Forces, was inspired by the poppies and wrote a poem.
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.
McCrae died in a military hospital on the French coast but his poem was published in Punch magazine, showing people what conditions on the battlefields were like. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 the war ended.
Thousands had died, and thousands had been injured and scarred by their experiences, and needed practical support when they got home. People wanted to remember the people who had given their lives for the freedom we enjoy.
An American teacher, Moina Michael, saw McCrae’s poem and sold poppies to raise money for ex-Service people. And so the tradition began. In 1922 Major George Howson MC, who served in WW1, founded the Disabled Society. He arranged with the Legion for unemployed ex-Service people to make artificial poppies, and founded a small factory, later to become the Poppy Factory. The Legion was founded in 1921 by combining four ex-Service organisations. The first official Poppy Day in Britain was 11 November 1921.