Poppies amidst headstones
The Royal British Legion has announced the start of its 2008 Poppies Appeal. This year the campaign begins in Basra, Iraq - the first time it has been launched in a war zone. The Legion sells red poppies in order to provide services for former and current members of the British military. This years theme puts it simply: "Serving those who serve".
The inspiration for selling red poppies comes from the poem "In Flanders Field" written by Major John McCrae, a doctor in the Royal Canadian Army, shortly after the battle of Ypres. Poppies were one of the few flowers to grow on the churned up earth of the World War I battlefield in Western Europe. Poppies are also associated with morphine, an opiate, which was used both to ease the pain of and to put wounded soldiers to sleep. "In Flanders Field" is arguably one of the most famous poems to come out of any war.
In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae, May 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.