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Poppy history

A brief history of remembrance the pacifist way.

The idea of detaching Armistice Day, the red poppy and, later, Remembrance Day from their military culture dates back to 1926, just a few years after the British Legion was persuaded to try using the red poppy as a fundraising tool in Britain.

A member of the No More War Movement suggested that the British Legion should be asked to imprint “No More War” in the centre of the red poppies instead of “Haig Fund” and, failing this, pacifists should make their own flowers.

The details of any discussion with the British Legion are unknown but, as the centre of the red poppy displayed the “Haig Fund” imprint until 1994, it was clearly not successful. A few years later the idea was again raised by the Co-operative Women's Guild who in 1933 produced the first white poppies to be worn on Armistice Day (later called Remembrance Day). The Guild stressed that the white poppy was not intended as an insult to those who died in the First World War – a war in which many of the women lost husbands, brothers, sons and lovers – but a challenge to the continuing drive to war. The following year the newly founded Peace Pledge Union joined the CWG in the distribution of the poppies and later took over their annual promotion.

Order white poppies from the PPU www.ppu.org.uk/whitepoppy or 020 7424 9444

Topics: Pacifism | Remembrance