Each year we remember those who gave their lives in the World Wars with a service of Remembrance at St Bartholomew’s, and in 2018 the service will take place on Sunday 11th November. But what are the origins of these acts of remembrance, and what is the significance of the poppy? 

On 3rd May 1915, an exhausted Canadian Army doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, was doing all he could for the wounded and dying on the battlefields of Flanders. The unimaginable carnage he witnessed at the front is captured in the moving words of a poem he wrote that day. It reads: 

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.

Somemonths later, his poem ‘in Flanders Fields’ was reproduced in Punch and Moina Michael, an American war secretary with the YMCA, was deeply moved by McCrae's work. She bought some poppies, and wore one herself to ‘keep the faith’ and sold the remainder to friends, giving the money to servicemen in need. 


Poppies growing in a First World War battlefield.

Her colleague, Madam Guerin, inspired by this idea, decided to visit different countries to suggest that artificial poppies should be made and sold to help ex­-servicemen and their dependants. 

From that point on, the Poppy became the emblem of remembrance. Today the annual Poppy Appeal is a highly sophisticated operation manned by a large permanent staff and more than 5,000 voluntary local organisers. 

Sadly there is still great need for the funds they raise, but we are grateful for all the poppy reminds us of each year. It is a sobering thought that we have just completed the bloodiest century the world has ever known, but e are still at war - this time with terrorism

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