As Remembrance Day approaches, red cloth poppies are found everywhere across the countries of the Commonwealth, sold by war veterans to mark the anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War on November 11th 1918. Each year, on this day, we commemorate the ultimate sacrifice of soldiers who have lost their lives in service to their country in times of war.
In Australia, as our nation pauses in silence for one minute at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we remember all the precious Australian lives lost to war in far-flung lands.
We have all been touched in some way by the icy cold fingers of war. The sight of those red poppies each November serves as a timely reminder that freedom comes at a cost and many of our loved ones are still fighting in far off lands for the freedom we all take so much for granted.
Red Poppies, the symbol we associate most with war and Remembrance Day, were amongst the first plants that were carried back from the battlefields of Europe during the First World War. It was widely believed that their vibrant scarlet hue was attributed to growing in fields saturated with the blood of soldiers.
One of the most memorable war poems ever written speaks of the terrible bloodshed of the First World War and the myriad of bright red poppies found blooming across the battle fields.
‘In Flanders Fields’ was written in May 1915 by the Canadian military physician, John McRae, after a friend was killed by an exploding shell right in front of him at the battle in the Ypres Salient. It has become a lasting legacy of the ‘Great War’.
In Flanders Fields
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.
On November 11th, the day of Remembrance, we will once again wear red poppies to keep faith ... and we will remember those who have fought for us ... always.