The story of the poppy
During the First World War (1914–1918) much of the fighting took place in
Western Europe. Previously beautiful countryside was blasted, bombed and
fought over, again and again. The landscape swiftly turned to fields of mud:
bleak and barren scenes where little or nothing could grow.
Bright red Flanders poppies (Papaver rhoeas) however, were delicate but resilient
flowers and grew in their thousands, flourishing even in the middle of chaos and
destruction. In early May 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, a Canadian
doctor, Lt Col John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies to write a now
famous poem called ‘In Flanders Fields’.
IN FLANDERS FIELDS
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.