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Saturday, 1 November 2014

Military Monday - The Poppy Symbol

Long term readers of my blog will know how much I like to mark the month of November and Remembrance Day by paying tribute to our ancestors who  fought in war.  Here I look at the role of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance 

2014 Tower of London Ceramic Poppy
On the  First World War Western Front, the poppy was the only plant to grow amidst the  devastation of the battlefields.  This vivid red flower became synonymous with the loss of life  made in war and became a  lasting memorial to those who died in World War One and later conflicts. In 1921 it was adopted by The Royal British Legion as the symbol of remembrance.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Nux4bq9j46s/TnOeXWpkNkI/AAAAAAAAAhE/73TZYD-aQQA/s1600/George+WM+1.jpg
The photograph, above, was sent to my great grandmother Maria Danson of Poulton-le- Fylde, Lancashire and marked the grave  of her son George, a stretcher bearer in the Royal Army Medical Corps,  who was  killed on the Somme a week after his 22nd birthday in 1916.  It conveys in a stark way the reality of war amid the mud and blood that George must have experienced - and contrasts with the pristine white of the more lasting memorials that we see  today. 

  ''Picture courtesy of The Royal British Legion''.

In 1915 the loss of a friend and the sight of the poppies in the fields inspired a Canadian  soldier Lieutenant  Colonel John Macrae to write the poem   "In Flanders Field".  

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.

One hundred years later, the  poppy remains a potent symbol, as witnessed in the 2014 Tower of London memorial display  where 888,246 ceramic poppies are being planted to mark British and Commonwealth losses in the First World War.  

The poppies will encircle the iconic landmark, creating not only a spectacular display visible from all around the Tower but also a location for personal reflection. The scale of the installation intends to reflect the magnitude of such an important centenary creating a powerful visual commemoration.







And across the country, we  will will remember them in national and personal memorials:

Cenotaph, London
The Cenotaph in London began as a temporary structure erected for a peace parade following the end of the First World War  but following an outpouring of national sentiment it was replaced in 1920 by a permanent structure and designated the United Kingdom's primary national war memorial.   Designed by Edwin Lutyens and built of Portland Stone,  the memorial was unveiled by King  George V  on 11 November 1920, the second anniversary of the end of the war. The unveiling ceremony for the Cenotaph was part of a larger procession bringing the Unknown Solider to be laid to rest in his tomb in Westminster Abbey.

The term "Cenotaph" relates to a monument  to honour those who died,  whose bodies are buried elsewhere or have no known grave.

My great uncles John and George Danson named on Poulton War Memorial

Military Monday is one of many daily blog prompts from www.geneabloggers.com
to encourage writers to record their family history.


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