Why do we wear poppies?


At a recent training session, Phil Whiteman commanding officer to Rye and District Sea Cadets and Royal Marines Cadets explained to his cadets the significance of wearing a poppy.

“On November 7, 1920, in strictest secrecy, four unidentified British bodies were exhumed from temporary battlefield cemeteries at Ypres, Arras, the Aisne and the Somme. None of the soldiers who did the digging were told why. The bodies were taken by field ambulance to GHQ at St. Pol-Sur-Ternoise and once there were draped with the Union Flag. Sentries were posted and Brigadier-General Wyatt and a Colonel Gell selected one body at random. The other three were reburied.


“A French honour guard was selected and stood by the coffin of the chosen soldier overnight. On the morning of the 8 November a specially-designed coffin, made of oak from the grounds of Hampton Court, arrived and the Unknown Warrior was placed inside. On top was placed a crusader’s sword and a shield on which was inscribed:
A British Warrior who fell in the GREAT WAR 1914-1918 for King and Country.

“On November 9 the Unknown Warrior was taken to the quayside by horse-drawn carriage with guards of honour and the sound of tolling bells and bugle calls. There, he was saluted by Marechal Foche and loaded onto HMS Verdun, bound for Dover. The coffin stood on the deck covered in wreaths, surrounded by the French honour guard. Upon arrival at Dover, the Unknown Warrior was met with a nineteen-gun salute – something normally only reserved for field marshals.

“A special train had been arranged and he was then conveyed to Victoria Station, London.
He remained there overnight, and, on the morning of November 11 he was finally taken to Westminster Abbey. The idea of the unknown warrior was the invention of a padre called David Railton who had served on the front line during the first world war. The Union Flag draped over the coffin was the one he had used as an altar cloth whilst at the front. It was his intention that all of the relatives of the 517,773 combatants whose bodies had not been identified could believe that the Unknown Warrior could very well be their lost husband, father, brother or son…


“This is the reason we wear poppies. We do not glorify war. We remember – with humility – the great and the ultimate sacrifices that were made, not just in this war, but in every war and conflict where our service personnel have fought – to ensure the liberty and freedoms that we now take for granted. Every year, on the 11th of November, we remember.”

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.

Image Credits: kt bruce .

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  1. A reminder that the Rye Civic Remembrance service will take place in St Mary”s Church, Rye at 1100 on Sunday 13 November and will be preceded by a parade of veterans and other local organisations from Adams in the High Street from 1030. It is recommended that the congregation should be seated in Church by 1045. After the service, wreaths will be laid at the Town Memorial in the churchyard.

    Anthony Kimber
    Colonel and President Rye RBL

  2. I always give to the poppy appeal, but I am surprised that the poppies are still made using plastic and am now reluctant to take one. There are something like 40 million pieces of small bits of black and green plastic used every year to make the poppies and it makes me wonder where all those pieces of plastic end up every year. The black plastic is recyclable but waste sorting systems can’t recognise black pigments. Even if black plastic is separated, it often ends up in landfill. Major UK supermarkets have pledged to stop using black plastic for their own product ranges.

  3. Mr Brian Matthews….Sainsbury’s are some have read are collecting poppies after tSunday for recycling…though that does not help those who don’t use that particular shop..and I believe that the British legion are trying to use less plastic…


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