Poppies for Heroes is a UK wide campaign with the aim of covering the whole of the country with poppies to commemorate the centenary of all those who lost their lives in the First World War.
But how did the poppy become the icon of remembrance that it is today? Against the odds, it shows that new life can come into being in the most unlikely of battle zones.
We have to go back to the spring of 1915 when the weather began to warm up the countryside after the cold winter at war in 1914-1915. In the region around Ypres in Belgian Flanders the months of April and May 1915 were unusually warm. Farmers were ploughing their fields close up to the front lines and new life was starting to grow.
One of the plants that began to grow in clusters on and around the battle zones was the red field or corn poppy (it’s species name is: papaver rhoeas). Its seeds are disseminated on the wind and can lie dormant in the ground for a long time. If the ground is disturbed from the early spring the seeds will germinate and the poppy flowers will grow. And this is what happened in parts of the front lines in Belgium and France. Once the ground was disturbed by the fighting, the poppy seeds lying in the ground began to germinate and grow during the warm weather in the spring and summer.
The origin of the red Flanders poppy as a modern-day symbol of remembrance was the inspiration of an American woman, Miss Moina Michael. She came across a page in a magazine, which carried a vivid colour illustration with the poem entitled “We Shall Not Sleep”. This was an alternative name sometimes used for John McCrae’s poem, which was also called “In Flanders Fields”.
In her autobiography, “The Miracle Flower”, Moina describes reading this poem as deeply spiritual experience. She felt as though she was actually being called in person by the voices which had been silenced by death.
At that moment Moina made a personal pledge to “keep the faith”. She vowed always to wear a red poppy of Flanders Fields as a sign of remembrance. It would become a worldwide emblem for “keeping the faith with all who died”.
Here is your chance to honour our heroes with the iconic symbol of remembrance – the Flanders poppy. Pick up a free packet of seeds from SiSi, Stenton’s, Brackenburys Deli and Grove Neighbourhood Centre and start sowing. All the trees in Brackenbury with poppies around them would look wonderful for example.
WHERE POPPIES GROW
- Poppies do best on an open sunny site in rich, loamy soil. Sandy or chalky is good, too.
- They like good drainage, and perform best when the soil has been disturbed, loosened or raked over.
- Sow them in a shallow trench, or scatter them on an appropriate location.
- It could be an embankment, building site, wild garden (not a site of Special Scientific Interest), front gardens, flowerpots, school grounds.
- Start sowing now and stagger planting through to mid July and you’ll have poppies blooming even into October.
If you need more poppy seeds, go to the Help for Heroes site at: www.helpforheroes.org.uk