A flower honours the dead
The red Flanders poppy appeared in Camden in recent years when local identity Frances Warner was inspired to crochet them for Anzac Day in 2013. Frances was inspired by the efforts of two Melbourne women, Lyn Berry and Margaret Knight, who had organised the 5000 Poppies Project. They initiated the project to pay tribute to their fathers’ military service in World War Two, triggering a massive community outpouring of emotions, memories, and commemorations. Frances’ efforts were part of this response.
What is the significance of the red Flanders poppy?
The red Flanders poppies were among the first plants to spring up in the battlefields of northern France and Belgium after the war. Soldiers’ folklore said that the vivid red came from the blood of their fallen comrades.
The poppy symbolises many cultural mythologies, from remembrance to sacrifice, dreams, regeneration, and imagination. In Christianity, the red of the poppy symbolises the blood of Christ and his sacrifice on the cross. The Roman poet Virgil used poppies as a metaphor to describe fallen warriors in his epic tale, the Aeneid, written around 25 BC. (https://www.uniguide.com/poppy-flower-meaning-symbolism)
The Anzac Portal website states that Canadian medic John McCrae recalled the red poppies on soldiers’ graves who died on the Western Front and wrote the poem ‘In Flanders Field’. He wrote the poem whilst serving in Ypres in 1915, and it was published in Punch magazine after being rejected by The Spectator. (https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/why-we-wear-poppies-on-remembrance-day)
In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae (1915)
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47380/in-flanders-fields
In response to In Flanders Fields, American humanitarian and teacher Moina Michael was so moved by the poem that she pledged to ‘keep the faith’ and scribbled down on an envelope ‘We Shall Keep The Faith’ in 1918.
We Shall Keep the Faith
by Moina Michael, November 1918
Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.
We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.
And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.
Moina Micheal used the poppy symbol to raise funds for US ex-servicemen returning from World War One and was known as ‘The Poppy Lady’. (http://www.greatwar.co.uk/people/moina-belle-michael.htm)
In Australia, the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League of Australia (RSS&ILA) first sold poppies for Armistice Day in 1921. The League imported one million silk poppies made in French orphanages. The RSL continues to sell poppies on Remembrance Day to assist its welfare work. (https://www.awm.gov.au/commemoration/customs-and-ceremony/poppies)
People place a red poppy next to a soldier’s name on the AWM Roll of Honour ‘as a personal tribute’. This practice began in 1993 at the internment of the Unknown Australian Soldier. (https://www.awm.gov.au/commemoration/customs-and-ceremony/poppies)
Poppies are used in remembrance all over the world. In the United Kingdom, the white poppy represents an international symbol of remembrance for all casualties of war, civilians and armed forces personnel, and peace.
Artificial poppies were first sold in the UK in 1921 to raise funds for ex-servicemen and their families for the Earl Haig Fund supplied by Anna Guérin in France, who had manufactured them to raise funds for war orphans. It proved so popular that the British Legion started a factory in 1922 staffed by disabled ex-servicemen to produce their own.
The Imperial War Museum website states:
Other charities sell poppies in different colours, each with their own meaning but all to commemorate the losses of war. White poppies, for example, symbolise peace without violence and purple poppies are worn to honour animals killed in conflict.(https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/why-we-wear-poppies-on-remembrance-day)
Melbourne’s 5000 Poppies Project
The 5000 Poppies Project started when Lyn Berry and Margaret Knight set out to crochet around 120 poppies to ‘plant’ at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance in 2013 to honour their fathers’ memory. Wal Beasley (14/32nd Battalion – Australian Imperial Forces) and Stan Knight (Queen’s Own West Kent Regiment – British Army). (https://5000poppies.wordpress.com/about/)
The 5000 Poppy Project has had art installations on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance (2017, 2019) and in Canberra at the Australian War Memorial and Parliament House (2017). The 5000 Poppies Project has gone international with an installation at London’s Chelsea Flower Show in 2016. (ttps://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/2016/articles/a-field-of-poppies-at-chelsea)
The 5000 Poppies project has become an international tribute of respect and remembrance to those who have served in all wars, conflicts, peacekeeping operations, their families, and communities. (https://5000poppies.wordpress.com/about/ )
Frances Warner’s Red Poppy Project
Frances Warner has crocheted hundreds of red poppies, sold them for fundraising, and co-ordinated art installations with knitted poppies. All commemorating the memory of local men and women who have served our country in times of conflict and peace.
Frances said that one red poppy takes around 45 minutes to crochet, and she estimates that she has knitted over 650. She has voluntarily contributed approximately 480 hours of her time, and she is not finished yet by a long way.
Frances says she is very ordinary yet has done an extraordinary job. Frances joins a long list of local women who have volunteered thousands of hours to honour the service of local men and women who have served in conflict and peacekeeping.
You must be logged in to post a comment.