At this time of the year we cast our minds back, as a nation, to those men and women who lost their lives in conflicts past and present. As such, we wear a poppy to visibly show our remembrance of the sacrifices they made.
The poppy has been associated with war since the Napoleonic Wars when a writer of that time first noted how the poppies grew over the graves of soldiers. However, the significance of the poppy as a lasting memorial to the fallen in conflicts was fully realised by the Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae in his 1915 poem In Flanders Fields, where the poppy came to represent the immeasurable sacrifice made by his comrades. Subsequently, the Royal British Legion adopted it in 1921 as a symbol for the Poppy Appeal in aid of those serving in the British Armed Forces.
Wearing a poppy is not just for the memory of the fallen; it also has a contemporary meaning for the support of service personnel in the future. Currently, The Royal British Legion spends around 1.7 million GBP each week supporting current and ex service personnel and their families in terms of welfare, comradeship, representation and Remembrance. Therefore, the Poppy Appeal is an incredibly important campaign in their calendar.
The poppy has another meaning. It symbolises that we have the freedom to express ourselves in whatever way we want: the freedom, for example, to wear a poppy or not. Through their sacrifice, servicemen and women have protected our country, our democracy and our values: values, which allow us, as individuals and groups, to hold wide-ranging opinions and views without the fear of being persecuted. Accordingly, wearing a poppy should be an apolitical matter and not a topic of debate in the political sphere. For without members of the armed forces giving up their lives we would not have a free society in which there are political parties to represent the varied views of its population.
So wear a poppy on 11 November to remember those who have fallen in conflict, to support those who need our help now and in the future, and to remind yourself that we live in a democratic country that allows us the freedom to express ourselves.