By Melissa Cole, Curator
From the last Friday in October to Remembrance Day, millions of Canadians wear a poppy as a visual pledge to never forget those who sacrificed for our freedom. This campaign goes back to 1921 when the poppy was adopted as a symbol of Remembrance by the British Legion. When the Royal British Legion adopted the poppy in 1921, so to did several other countries including Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States.
The idea for the Remembrance Poppy was conceived by Madame Anna Guérin of France. She was inspired by John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields.” Anna had originally founded a charity to help rebuild regions of France torn apart by the First World War and created beautiful poppies made of fabric to raise funds.
The poppy was adopted in Canada on July 6, 1921, when Madame Guérin presented her concept to France’s allies, including The Great War Veterans Association, today’s Royal Canadian Legion.
Poppies are a universal symbol of remembrance and sacrifice. The tradition of wearing a poppy to honour veterans takes place in different countries around the world. Each country has tailored a unique design; therefore, poppies differ from country to country.
Poppies are frequently sent to and worn by expatriates living in other countries in Europe and beyond. The English Poppy, produced by the Royal British Legion, is the poppy that is shipped out to different countries where expatriates live. The English poppy worn in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has two petals, a green leaf and a black centre. The Scottish poppy is similar, made of paper with a plastic centre, four petals and no green leaf. The removal of the green leaf allowed for more funds to be directed to veterans and their families.
Our poppy in Canada is sold by the Royal Canadian Legion, is made of moulded plastic covered in flocking. The red piece of the poppy contains indents to mark four petals and contains a black centre. The black centre was changed from green around 2001.
The poppy remains a symbol of remembrance in Canada, Great Britain, the nations of the Commonwealth, and in the United States for those who served or fell in service of their country.