Born in the month of November, as each year passed and I honed my birthday excitement that every child does with age, I was equally aware that I shared my birth anniversary with something much bigger and much more important than my little self. Through my infant eyes, poppy-spotting would be something I looked forward to. Seeing them adorning coat lapels of strangers and family members, and wreaths decorating my hometown’s monuments was part and parcel of my birth-month anticipation.
I still remember the nugget of happiness I’d get each year when, hand-in-hand with my mother, she would lead me to the old man or lady, whom shared the warmest smiles that all grandparents exude, and let me pop a coin into the charity pot in exchange for my very own paper poppy. I would wear that poppy with a glow of pride, still a little too young to know its true meaning, but with a distinct feeling that I was being part of something that always felt very special and meaningful.
It wasn’t long after I started to understand the importance though. At my Catholic primary school we would attend school assemblies, church services and history lessons where the poppy would be explained. Great sadness would overcome me as we were told of the harrowing destruction to human life that was The First World War. For a fleeting few minutes during those assemblies, we all understood that had we been born decades earlier, our brothers, fathers and grandfathers would all have been in that war, and we would have assuredly suffered a devastating loss to our families as a result of their brave sacrifices for their love of us, and their country.
The poppy, now an icon to such charities as The Royal British Legion and a commonplace feature in WW1 Centenary events this year, was born out of both it’s ability to flourish within the ravaged and disturbed earth of the shell-pocked battlefields, and then by default, from the moving and poetic mind of Canadian soldier John McCrae, who penned the poem “In Flanders Fields” while noticing the poppies standing so beautifully where so much destruction had happened. Mother Nature’s way of mourning with us, perhaps.
I am not a great retainer of historical facts at the best of times, so as part of my work on a podcast series with publishers DK Books, I was not too surprised when we uncovered how we are losing memory of even the simplest WW1 facts decades on, that I know I would have been taught in school. So although still to this day the Poppy Appeal and that icon mean a great deal to me, I hope to do a lot more this year to mark this moving anniversary of the beginning of World War One by doing a charity event, and please listen to our latest podcast to learn with me, more about why it happened in the first place, and whether it could have been avoided.
|World War I |
by DK Books
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World War One, click here >>