What is the origin of the poppies on November 11? I + History

This Thursday is commemorated the end of the First World War. In the UK and other countries, the anniversary, called ‘Remembrance Day’, is symbolized by a Red flower, which has its origin in a poem written on the battlefield.

These days, UK fills with poppies and not because spring blooms. They are the symbol used to remember the victims of the First World War, which ended on November 11, 1918, when the two sides signed the armistice. From the following year, the anniversary called ‘Remembrance Day’ began to be commemorated, which is symbolized by this little red flower. It all started thanks to a poem written by the Canadian military doctor John McCrae.

When the war broke out, the start of the conflict was greeted with a state of general euphoria. The men marched smiling and convinced of an immediate victory. However, soon all that romanticism of the martial world was buried between the mud from trenches, shell holes and poisonous gases who threw themselves against each other. Thousands and thousands of men died every day just because the generals wanted to try to snatch the enemy a few feet out of nowhere.

Life in the trenches made a deep impression on everyone who lived it. Some tried to express it with words, such as Dr. McCrae, who after watching his best friend fall in combat in 1915, wrote a poem that began like this: “In Flanders fields, the poppies blow, between the crosses row on row & rdquor; (In the fields of Flanders the poppies move between rows of crosses). As soon as it was published in the magazine ‘Punch’ it became popular both among the soldiers and in the rear, because expressed the feeling of loss of men on the battlefield and demanded that the deceased be remembered forever.

The first that had the idea of ​​materializing the Flanders poppies in a badge to honor the fallen was the American Moina Michael. She was a teacher from Georgia who traveled to Europe as a volunteer during the conflict and, from 1918, inspired by McCrae’s poem, she made a poppy that she always wore on her lapel. In addition, he campaigned for the flower will be adopted as a symbol in the allied countries. This is how, from the 1920s on, it gained prominence on both sides of the Atlantic until it became the key element in commemoration events. These days, wherever ceremonies are held, you can see floral offerings in the form of wreaths of poppies.

In the case of the United Kingdom, the entity that watches over war veterans is the Royal British Legion. Over the years and conflicts, the ‘Remembrance Day’ has become a day for glorify all those killed in action of all the wars in which Her Majesty’s army has participated. One of the most striking actions carried out is related to football. Coinciding with this anniversary, each year the British teams that wear the poppy on their shirts, which are then usually auctioned to allocate the proceeds to the entity’s projects.

However, this proposal has not always been well accepted by everyone. The fans of the Scottish team of Celtic de GlasgowIn 2010, he protested because his players were wearing it. They wanted to show his rejection of British participation in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In this sense, the most shocking case is surely that of James McClean, who has refused to wear the shirt with the poppy as a way of denouncing the role of the British armed forces in his homeland: he is the son of Derry, North Ireland. For this decision, the athlete – who currently plays in the ranks of Wigan – has received death threats and is even whistled by the followers of the teams he has played for since he joined the Premier League in 2012. The same it happens to the serbian Nemanja Matic since, in 2017, he signed for Manchester United. In 1999, NATO troops (made up in part of the British) bombed his hometown, Vrelo, when he was twelve years old, something that obviously marked him deeply.

Both have declared on multiple occasions that they respect the memory of those who fell in world wars, but that they do not want to participate in actions designed to enhance the role of an army that, like everyone else in the world, has as many lights as shadows.


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John McCrae, who was born in Ontario in 1872, was never able to see his poppies bloom on November 11. The doctor and military man died on January 28, 1918 because of pneumonia. He, who had treated so many wounded and sick since he had been mobilized in 1914, did not overcome the harsh conditions of a war of unimaginable cruelty.

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