Prime Minister Encouraging the Planting Poppies in Honour of WWI

David Cameron, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, is requesting British citizens to plant poppies in a show of remembrance for WWI, which enters into its centenary this year. Cameron has made his own effort to do so recently with a trip to schools to help children grow their own seeds. The Royal British Legion has kids heavily involved, turning it into a school project of sorts wherein many different schools are planting poppies while they learn more about the war.

Part of the reason for focusing such an effort on youth is that the younger generation is farther removed from the war, and therefore has less personal connection to it. They can now connect in their own way by adding to the sense of memorial which is currently growing around Europe. The poppies are due to be fully grown around early August, when the actual centenary starts. The Heritage Lottery Fund has donated one hundred thousand pounds to the effort in order to ensure the involvement of as many students as possible.

The flower has been used to denote memorial to fallen soldiers for a long time, yet the current initiative to increase its production over an entire nation is a relatively new idea. One of the reasons that poppies so well represent lives lost in war is that they are able to flourish in soil which has seen destruction. Visitors to the sites of larger battles frequently saw the red flowers growing in the war-scorched Earth, The Times of India reports.

Such imagery was popularized by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” written by John McCrae. As a result, much of the populace started to associate the image of poppies with the idea that they were the one thing left standing in a battlefield which left few survivors. It is not uncommon for many to wear them on their lapels during memorial services or other such events.

The ability of poppies to thrive on barren lands is what made them a symbol of losses in the war, but ultimately it is those who honour the soldiers themselves that keep the symbol around. These are also the people who will be making the symbol more prominent than ever this year, as desires to see more and more of the flowers planted are on the rise. With the WWI centenary just around the corner, the increased volume of poppies in the United Kingdom will serve as a stark reminder of just how many lives were lost.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE