My response to the branding of a red poppy “offensive.”
When I heard that the Student Union here on campus had branded the wearing of a red poppy on Remembrance Day “offensive”, I thought it was a disgrace. The wearing of a poppy is not a political symbol- as the ludicrous by FIFA when they banned players from wearing any form of poppy on the pitch. The poppy instead is a symbol of solidarity to which we will remember those who have lost their lives at war.
The wearing of a poppy originates from Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae’s poem ‘In Flanders Field’ after being inspired the funeral of a friend who died during the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915. The poem received great popularity and became synonymous with those who gave their life for war. The poppy was not there as a political message to go ahead and fight but was rather visioned as a way to remember the dead- as it has been worn ever since 1921.
For many soldiers during the First World War, fighting was not a choice and they were often conscripted against their will to fight for the country. At the time of the first remembrance, inaugurated by King George V in 1919, the war was still in living memory for many across the country and poppies were first worn a few years later echoing the chilling words of McCrae’s poem- did they really see the wearing of a poppy as a political sign or more so as a way of remembering their loved ones who were lost at war?
By the outbreak of the Second World War and even later wars involving Britain, men and women continued to lose their lives for their country. Whatever your standing on war, to brand the remembering of them is offensive is in is tell offensive for the families and loved ones who suffered from grief of losing their loved one in war. Every night in Ypres the dead are remembered at the Last Post Ceremony under the Menin Gate- is this also offensive? For those who remember their loved ones by wearing a ribbon that resembles cancer, is this also offensive?
The work by the British Legion- the primary seller of the poppies- is there to support the soldiers who’ve seen battle, as well as those who’ve lost. The charity is not there to encourage warfare nor is it a political group glorifying war. Instead the charity acts as a support symbol for those affected by warfare.
At a time where nearly everything is deemed offensive, should we really be discarding the memories of those who fought for us to bring us protection and the freedom we now live in today. As a proud supporter of the British Legion, I wear my poppy with pride for those who fought and at each Remembrance service I attend and every letter I have read from a desperate loved one writing to their solider at war, I am saddened by the sacrifice they made. At UEA we hold vigils for every attack deemed unfair and unjust, so why is it we forget to remember those who gave it all for our freedom? I cannot help noticing the unfair brandishing of the poppy as ‘politicised’ by only a small minority who only emphasise the importance of remembering our armed forces. The simple wearing of a red poppy “that mark our place”- as empathised within ‘In Flanders Field’- is there to remind us in the great number of lives lost as highlighted by their blood stained red colour and not to as a celebration and glorification of war.