For any date of significance when it comes to war, an image of a red poppy has been firmly etched on my brain. Stunningly vibrant, and richly red, the poppy is a symbol of remembrance.
The Red Poppy is also known as the Flanders Poppy, and was first described as the flower of remembrance by Canadian Colonel John McCrae. McCrae composed a poem scrawled on a page of his book while in charge of a small first-aid post, which has since become famously known as “Flanders’ Field”. The poem describes the graves of the fallen soldiers simply marked by red poppies.
For Aussies, Red poppies have special significance as they were the first flower to bloom throughout the battlefields after the First World War, in northern France and Belgium. It was believed that the vivid red of the poppy had come from the blood of their comrades soaking the ground.
Poppies are generally available in Australia throughout the middle of the year, around July and August. They have a crepe paper texture, and soft stems, so are quite delicate. They are often scolded on the base of their stems, and are best kept in low levels of water, which is said to encourage the poppies to ‘stretch’ and therefore allow more of the blooms to pop open rather than deteriorating.
A.N.Z.A.C (Australian and New Zealand Army Corp) Day falls on April 25 each year and commemorates the day that Australian and New Zealand troops rallied together with other allies in an attempt to capture the Gallipoli peninsula. As we know, it was not meant to be, and upon landing on Gallipoli that were met with fierce resistance, and were embattled for 8 months. When the allied forces were finally evacuated in 1915, both sides had suffered great loss in human life, and endured immense hardships. Every April 25th, Australians remember the huge sacrifice the ANZACs made. Although the mission they set out to accomplish at Gallipoli failed, the ANZAC spirit triumphed and would be forever remembered.
Fresh poppies are a pretty tall order at this time of year so you will notice that often artificial blooms adorn the wreaths laid at the memorials. But interestingly, you will rarely see them substituted by any other bloom in their place on the traditional laurel leaf wreath.
Cloth red poppies are sold by the RSL to fund raise for their welfare activities. They are an exact replica in terms of size and colour of the Flanders Poppy that was found in the battlefields following the WW1.
If you are unable to get your hands on a fresh, artificial or cloth red poppy for ANZAC day this year, Rosemary is also a symbol of remembrance and is readily available. Rosemary grew wild on the Gallipoli peninsula, so has a special significance for ANZAC day. Rosemary is also said to improve one’s memory.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.