war history poppies

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In nineteenth-century English literature, poppies were recognised as the symbol of sleep or a state of oblivion but in literature associated with the First World War, the poppy took on a much more powerful symbolism, representing the shedding of blood on the battlefield. History reveals that red poppies among the very first plants to sprout in the ravaged battlefields of France and it was the sight of these poppies at Ypres in 1915 that inspired Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae to pen the poem, “In Flanders Fields.”

Having read the poem just prior to the Armistice, American YMCA worker Moina Michael and was extremely touched by McCrae’s work that she then wrote her own poem as a reply and always wore a red poppy as a way of demonstrating her faith, which was what the Lieutenant-Colonel had urged in his poem. In November 1918, a meeting of YMCA secretaries from several countries provided Moina with a forum to talk about her poppies and the French YMCA secretary, Anna Guerin, took the idea to another level by selling poppies in order to raise funds needy veterans and their families as well as widows and orphans.

In Allied nations throughout the world, the poppy quickly became accepted as the flower of remembrance and was worn on Armistice Day. In Australia, the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League (now the RSL) first sold poppies for Armistice in 1921 and to enable this, they had imported one million silk poppies which had been made by French orphans. Each of the poppies was sold for one shilling with five pence being donated to a charity for French children, six pence going to the league’s welfare work and one penny adding to the league’s National funds.

war history poppies

Through its strong association with the sacrifices made during war, the poppy has also become very popular in wreaths which are laid on ANZAC Day each year and an early recorded instance of this was when soldiers taking part in the 1940 Dawn Service during their time in Palestine dropped poppies as they filed past the Stone of Remembrance and a senior Australian officer laid a wreath of poppies which were picked from Mt Scopus.

This year, November 11 marks one hundred years since the end of the Great War and whilst the 2014 – 2018 ANZAC Centenary has seen communities across Queensland join together to create a range of very fitting tributes to those who served during the First World War, the Queensland Government has commissioned a statewide art installation to which all Queenslanders will be able to contribute.

The final art installation will consist of 57,705 poppies which reflect the number of Queenslanders who enlisted in the conflict. It is expected to stand over three metres high and measure twenty metres in length. It will serve as a strong reminder of the importance associated with remembering the service and sacrifice of our servicemen and women and after travelling to Townsville, Mackay, Longreach and Bundaberg, it will finally be displayed at Southbank in Brisbane from November 3. The poppies in the display will form the words, “REMEMBER.”

war history poppies

Residents of Bribie Island and nearby areas will be able to become involved in the making of poppies for the art installation by participating in one or more of the workshops which are being held at The Australian Vintage Aviation Society Museum at the Caboolture Airfield. The next opportunity to be involved will be Sunday 9th September from 10 am to 1 pm. The TAVAS Museum is on McNaught Road and the target number of poppies is 4,000. Anyone who would like more information is welcome to call TAVAS cofounder Nathalie Gochel on 0421 799 431.

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